Here’s an important message to CounterPunch readers from Chris Hedges….
Chris Hedges calls CounterPunch “the most fearless, intellectually rigorous and important publication in the United States.” Who are we to argue? But the only way we can continue to “dissect the evils of empire” and the “psychosis of permanent war” is with your financial support. Please donate.
Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.
Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.
CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.
The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.
Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
Don’t want to donate through PayPal?
Then click here to donate through our secure server.
To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683
Thank you for your support,
Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel
CounterPunch PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558
What to Fear: Hospitals
In today’s upside-down world of hyperbolized “threats,” the relative magnitude of fear is almost inversely proportional to any actual risk involved. Take the obvious example, terrorism. First and foremost, keep in mind Edward Herman’s distinction between the “wholesale” terrorism of the U.S. war machine, killing and crippling hundreds of thousands; and the small-scale, episodic “retail” terrorism, which is primarily a “blowback” reaction to the former. The vast majority of Americans appear to be indifferent to wholesale—because the suffering victims are non-Americans—and terrified of retail. Think of the widespread panic following the lethal anthrax attacks in late 2001 (the often-forgotten denouement of which was that the FBI’s prime suspect, before he committed suicide, was one of their own scientific consultants). This fear has hardly abated–but is the terrorist threat more imposing than, say, the Missile Crisis of October 1962? Or, more recently, Reagan’s saber-rattling rhetoric and massive armaments build-up in the early 1980s—which caused General Secretary Yuri Andropov to conclude that the U.S. was preparing to launch a nuclear war?(1)
Rational assessment of relative risks to personal safety requires comparison with other sources of potential danger. If we truly want to know something about the real threats we face in everyday life, we can consult actuarial tables, crime statistics or epidemiological data. Before nervously looking around an airport terminal for suspicious characters, why not drop by your friendly, local “Big-Box” hospital? As I write this piece, I notice an article in the New York Times (11/25/10) which, with the Times’ usual unintended irony, reports hospitals’ total failure over the last decade “to reduce errors and make hospital stays less hazardous to patients’ health.” A new, just-released study of hospitals in North Carolina has reported the astonishing incidence of “25.1 injuries per 100 admissions.”(2)
Last I checked, the Medical-Pharmaceutical Complex currently offers a bill-of-goods which includes 13,000 possible diagnoses, 6000 drugs, and 4000 surgical procedures. Given the successful marketing of Worry—with TV drug ads and the like– almost anything we might feel or notice in our bodies or minds could be a condition requiring treatment.(3) Caveat emptor: such a pervasive medicalization of living itself inevitably means overmedication and overtreatment. Since the giant hospital-corporations can in this fashion successfully bring in legions of new “customers,” they are in a position to charge premium prices for cut-rate merchandise. Low-quality “care”–slipshod procedures, outdated equipment, overworked staff, assembly-line (and often unnecessary) surgeries—means, of course, higher profits. The Hypocritical Oath?: “First, make money—even if you do harm.” The result?: a stunningly high rate of “preventable medical errors”—and preventable deaths.
In-hospital mortality studies are periodically issued (and generally ignored by those who insist on placing their blind trust in their “health caregivers”). Health Grades, Inc., a healthcare quality organization which rates hospitals on safety and other measures, completed a Patient Safety Study for the years 2000 to 2002, and concluded that “an average of 195,000 people in the USA died [each year] due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors.” HealthGrades vice-president Dr. Samantha Collier seriously characterized such “preventable, in-hospital medical errors”—rest, perturbed Orwell–as “one of the leading killers in the U.S.” Her startling analogy?: “the equivalent of 390 jumbo jets full of people are dying each year.”(4) And it gets worse: in a subsequent study, Health Grades estimated roughly 305,000 such in-hospital deaths per year due to such “safety incidents.” These figures, incidentally, do not even include the estimated 100,000 or more Americans killed each year at home—by drug interactions, incorrect dosages, etc.
To those not yet desensitized to human tragedy, such figures are horrifying—but, like the human toll of Hiroshima, really beyond the scope of human comprehension. However abstract such figures may be—as in the case of Iraqi “civilian casualties”—they calculate an incidence of harm experienced quitely concretely by each and every victim. If such figures are even close to the reality, we are talking about roughly TWO MILLION people, KILLED in hospitals DUE TO PREVENTABLE MEDICAL ERRORS, since 9/11. How many jumbo jets, full of passengers, have been destroyed each year by terrorists?
BILL MANSON previously taught social science at Columbia and Rutgers universities.
Richard Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. Vintage Books, 2008.
Denise Grady, “Study Finds No Progress in Safety at Hospitals,” The New York Times, November 25, 2010; p. 1.
Nortin Hadler, M.D, Worried Sick. University of North Carolina Press, 2008
Medical News Today, August 9, 2004