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Unsubstantiated reports of 50 lakh deaths annually due to medical negligence carried by all 'premiere' dailies in India
Report by PTI suggests that as per a Harvard study, 5 mn Indians die due to medical negligence; report carried verbatim by all leading dailies without any fact-verification
The fake news
Recently the News Agency Press Trust of India published a story claiming that as per a study conducted by Harvard University last year, there are as many as 50 lakh deaths every year in India due to medical negligence. The report also provides a solution to the issue. The report suggests that half of these deaths can be prevented by taking a specialised course called Acute Critical Care Course (ACCC). This report was carried verbatim by most leading publications (The Week, The Hindu, India Times, ET Health World etc.) with varying titles.
One media outlet called OpIndia stood out and questioned the absurd numbers thrown up in the original article. Opindia, after conducting background research, concluded that the story was fake. Some of the key excerpts from the OpIndia article:
“…The study from Harvard School of Public Health from 2013 states that about 5.2 million injuries (not deaths) take place in India due to medical negligence. Moreover, the Harvard School of Public Health report is from September 2013 and not last year as talked about by PTI…”
“…The death rate in India currently is 7.3 per thousand people while the population is pegged at about 133.92 crore (approximately). So based on the calculations, between 97 to 99 lakh people die in India every year. Of which about 45 lakh deaths are recorded for people over the age of 60 years. Going by these statistics, if PTI report is to be believed as many as almost every other person who died in India died due to medical errors. Over and above that, there is a difference between medical error and medical negligence. Medical error would be an error in planning or executing an action. Using adverse drug, improper transfusion, surgical injuries, etc are medical or clinical errors. On the other hand, an action by a doctor or a medical professional which leads to one suffering an avoidable injury is medical negligence…”
Read the OpIndia article here: https://pxmd.co/eIw9K
The PTI article makes some very laughable conclusions:
1. The article asserts that 50 lakh Indians i.e. 1 in every 2 deaths in India happens due to medical negligence. And all this while we were taught that Infections, Cardiovascular diseases, TB, AIDS and RTAs were the major causes of death!!
2. The article also offers a magic pill. It states that half of these deaths can be prevented by taking a course called ACCC (Acute Critical Care Course). A simple google search on the "ACCC course" and various combinations with the names of course faculties mentioned in the PTI article does not bring up any authentic course information. We wonder, why spend on building hospitals, ensuring adequate staff, providing quality medicines and improving sanitation and reducing pollution when we can simply reduce 25 lakh deaths every year by just taking one course!!
The problem with fake news like the story by PTI is that they sound interesting, get eyeballs and are forward worthy. Who cares if it is true or false. Who cares if a million doctors' reputation is being tarnished as long as the story gets a million page-views!