The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hospital Error Deaths Are Profitable

Feb 17, 2014

In 2013, the yearly death toll from hospital errors in the U.S. was 440,000, according to a recent study. In 1998, it was 98,000. Thus, the death toll increased four and half times over 15 years. In general, medical errors and complications got worse over the years, today affecting more than one in three hospitalized patients. In total, an estimated 15 million people suffer medical harm in hospitals annually. This shockingly high malpractice rate relates to medical treatment, a very basic human necessity.

Our health expenses have been increasing year after year at a level well above the inflation rate. We spend nearly a trillion dollars on hospital care each year. So, considering this huge spending, along with technological and scientific advances, the hospital malpractice rates should have been minimized, not skyrocketed.

But the hospitals handsomely profit out of this malpractice. The Harvard University researchers explain that “Effective methods for reducing surgical complications have been identified. However, hospitals have been slow to implement them.” A main reason for this slow implementation is that adoption of these methods would drastically reduce the hospitals’ profits.

For example, “if a patient has colon cancer surgery, Medicare pays a certain fee, but if the patient gets a post-operative infection that leads to pneumonia and has to be put on a ventilator for several days, the payment for ventilator care is higher and more profitable than the payment for the original surgery.”

Under capitalism, hospitals are mere businesses. Thus, medical care is another target for profit that needs to be maximized to “efficiently” run the business. But this is a gruesome set-up for our health. We not only pay excessively to get a treatment in hospitals, but we can get killed in the process due to this profit drive.