The Open, Inquiring Minds of Science. NOT.

Medical Error Kills Thousands

Perhaps you’ve read this startling study published recently: if we actually tallied them properly, medical errors would be the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer. We’re talking 250,000 inpatients annually.

That was published in the British Medical Journal, a well-respected resource for the medical world. It turns out death certificates don’t presently have a box to check when medical error caused a patient’s death.


Did the Doctors of the World Eat Humble Pie?

Perhaps some did, but the most vocal screamed out loud and long against the findings!

Garbage,” “tripe,” “extrapolated hogwash,” and “bogus.”

Still others described them as

outrageous,” “absurd,” “insulting,” and “a joke.”

Now, doctors are scientists, aren’t they? I seem to recall studying a lot of biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology and so on to get my degree.

Let’s see what defines “science” for a moment:

  • At it’s root, it’s from Latin scientia, from scire, ‘know.’
  • How do we come to know something? Usually from observation, often with added experimentation
  • That suggests inquiry, a wondering, a desire to describe the workings of the natural world

It often involves what’s come to be known as the “scientific method.” That encompasses five stages:

  1. Observation: simply noting something around you, like people dying of some unknown or poorly defined cause.
  2. Hypothesis: having an idea that might explain what you’re seeing. “Maybe there was some mistake in dosing or a drug incompatibility that lead to these deaths.”
  3. Prediction: “If this hypothesis is true, we should be able to find it in the patient records by careful examination.”
  4. Experimentation: setting up a test to see if your hypothesis is correct or not.
  5. Conclusion: based on your results, you can either accept your hypothesis (because your experimental findings support it) or reject it, if the opposite is true.

There are variations of this, but that’s pretty much how science marches forward to add to our understanding of how things work. We observe, we test, we make conclusions.

All of this is to say that inquiry requires an open mind. We’d have not much progress if it weren’t for curious, open minds who strove to better understand things.

The Bigger They Are…

I’ve been learning lately that we in the human world don’t like to be called out on our faults. Like being told we are doing things wrongly, made a mistake, acted poorly, handled something badly.

Doctors are generally held in high regard by society (though probably far less than sports figures, but I digress).

For them to hear they’ve actually been involved in harming patients?


A great example is Dr. Semmelweis, wondering why so many women having babies in hospitals in the 1800’s were dying of puerperal fever. The good doctor had a hypothesis: it might be because the med students of his day often went from autopsies to child deliveries without washing their hands (!).

He somehow got everyone washing up and the death rate in newly delivered moms plummeted!

How did the doctors of the day react to his amazing discovery? It wasn’t, erm, welcomed with hearty congratulations.

So, ego can easily get in the way when our wrong behavior is brought to light. Ugly behavior often ensues instead of reparation and humility.

Wouldn’t This Be Refreshing?

Oh! It appears we’re making way too many fatal mistakes in our hospitals! Let’s get a fail safe system in place where we are accountable to at least one other person to make sure we’re giving the proper dose of the proper drug. And let’s do only those procedures that have been well studied for safety and efficacy by independent analysis.”

Humble pie, can you smell it? Mmm mm.

But, how about going beyond the usual tepid, “This needs more research,” right into, “We clearly need to change our ways, STAT!”

Humble pie with expresso!

And way, way beyond, “Balderdash! We’re doctors! We don’t make mistakes!”

That pie is laced with hubris! Yechh!

I’m sure these mistakes happen in veterinary medicine as well. Knowingly or unknowingly or just plain ignoring-ly.

  • “I don’t care what the research says about duration of immunity, we vaccinate annually!
  • “The only way to keep your animal free of fleas is with these poisons! Squeeze them on your animal and go wash your hands thoroughly!”
  • “Heartworm is a deadly disease! Only way to prevent it is to feed your dog these pesticides every month. If she gets a little sick for a few days, so what? It’s better than dying of heart failure, right? Oh, and you might as well give them year round. You never know when a mosquito might pop in and bite old Rover.”
  • Raw food? That’s crazy talk! The good scientists at Hill’s have Prescription Diets for everything that ails your pet. Look at that label: you could never make it this good at home!”

Tell us in the comments if you think this mental shift is possible or if we have to take it to the grass roots. Vote with our pocketbooks.

Maybe you’ve had experiences that color your answer.

Do tell.

Well informed is well armed, in my mind.

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  1. Colin Bastable on July 2, 2016 at 3:47 pm
    The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) is urging owners not to use Nobivac L4 vaccine on puppies under 12 weeks old.
    However, the Telegraph can reveal that is still being administered in veterinary practices across Britain to dogs from seven weeks old, with little warning of the potential side effects.
    According to reports made to the Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) by pet owners, more than 120 dogs are feared to have died after receiving a dosage in the three years the product has been on the market.
    In the last two years, regulators have received 2,000 reports of dogs having suspected adverse or fatal reactions.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on July 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks, Colin. Folks: lepto vaccines in general offer far more risk than any perceived (or marketed) benefit. Avoid the “L” in any vaccine, regardless of manufacturer.

  2. peter on June 29, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    I finally have found a good vet. When I went to my old vet the other day to get my dog’s medical history on paper, their note taking about me was not very nice… “Owner insists on doing a raw diet and discontinuing Advantix even though he was strongly advised against it.” They were a bunch of asses. It is SO maddening when I think back on the years i brought my dog there for her GI upsets, and they told me, it is too difficult to say what is causing it, but here is metronidazole, famotidine, some anti-nausea meds, fluids under the skin, some prescription kibble, and oh.. don’t forget some Greenies pill pockets! by the way do you need to order some more HeartGard?” ….. So sickening. They made me feel awful, couldn’t give me answers, they took my money, and my dog was NO better. If I hadn’t pulled her and started taking her health into my own hands, she might be friggin dead by now. The ONLY thing I am grateful to them for is surgically removing my dog’s mast cell tumor several years ago and getting all of it clean. I noticed it when it was a grade 1 thankfully. Probably caused by THEM, with their yearly vaccinations (not just the standard ones… they sucked me into getting the Lyme vaccine, too!) And they gave me so much crap because they thought my dog was too skinny but she was actually overweight and I got her to a nice, lean, ideal weight, and they were like “I dont want this dog losing any more weight!” They had me so stressed, i was taking my dog weekly to PetSmart to weigh her. Now, I just use my eyes, if she’s too skinny, i feed more. Too fat, feed a little less, and if my dog skips a meal, which she does self-fast from time to time, i let her and i don’t fret, because it’s completely fine for dogs to do that sometimes, and the vet used to give her friggin APPETITE STIMULANTS! wtf………

    • peter on June 29, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      Oh and if I ever mentioned my dog ate grass, they would also prescibe PEPCID! What the hell? Dogs eating grass is no big deal… My dog eats it because she likes to munch on it, and she’ll eat it frantically when something is bothering her, then she’s fine. Instead of pepcid I will give some slippery elm and bentonite clay and make a syrup, works so good too… I understand drugs are sometimes necessary but that isnt ALWAYS the answer, it’s just convenient. Pop your dog a pill, pour some kibble in a bowl, squirt some drops on your dog’s back… we’re slowly killing our dogs with these actions, and vets friggin deny it, say its harmless, there’s no proof, who are you going to believe, me or Dr. Google? blah blah blah.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on June 30, 2016 at 8:44 am

        A remarkable condemnation of the scene in Dr. WhiteCoat’s office, Peter. The mindset becomes quite clear when they can’t even let you move on without making you wrong for your choice to step out of their system.
        And look how much you accomplished by doing so! I wish this was atypical, but read this carefully, folks. Peter lays out an all-too-common scenario here and if you’re an unwitting victim caught inside a similar one, it’s time to summon your courage and make a hasty exit.
        If this work I’m engaged in now can help even a handful of you from going through this with your animals, it will be worth it.
        I’ve been on the receiving end of way too many disastrous cases who didn’t leave soon enough.

  3. Faith Stecker on June 27, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    What is the Tautode protocol you have mentioned in other posts>?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 28, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Faith,
      This will be covered in greater detail when my course, Nosodes, Tautodes & Titers, comes back, probably before the year ends. Nutshell version is giving this type of remedy on either side of a vaccination.

  4. Faith Stecker on June 27, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Could I please get some help. I have a 3yr old lab who I have only had titered, and now I am weighing my options regarding a first rabies vaccine. I don’t know if I am putting him at risk by NOT getting a one year rabies. or IF the rabies nosodes will protect him,
    or IF one vaccine would be most beneficial. I hear so many horror stories and after reading your posts, I am more concerned. I want to do the BEST for him, but I am not sure what you would recommend. I know I will only do a one year, a one time vaccine, but would no vaccine be a better option. PLEASE give me advice and your opinion.
    Please help me make the best decision for my dog and me.

  5. Juliana Pavelka-Johnston on June 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I love the Graphix Dr. Will, can I keep it. As always yes, your right on the button. Where is the knowledge in which we have lost our wisdom? Or is everyone just doped up on “Glyphosate”? (The Amazing Dr. Dee Presentation:)
    I’ll share a personal story with you and your readers. A while back I applied for work in a local hospital. I passed my tests, did well on the interview, and I had good references from a medical researcher, and non-profit organization dealing with people who encounter medical issues. I did not get the job. Questioning why this was so? The HR officer told me we want “doers”, and not “thinkers”. Sure I was upset, but the point is that only mindless sheep are recruited to simply follow the status quo, which is a failing system. This system that is killing our animals and hindering our people.
    So Dr. Will, as you would put it – The thinkers need to keep “doing”, to push the sheep to the barn once and for all, and we will all be better off Hugs Dr. Will from Me, Artemus & P.S. Merlin!

  6. nancy brown on June 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I am forever mystified by how divided the veterinarian community is on animal care. Even leaving aside those who are purely motivated by money, how is it that the others who truly want to help animals are still ignoring the obvious dangers or effects of vaccination, kibble, and toxic drugs?
    Sure there are those vets who say that you should vaccinate your animal to cover their butts legally, but who will then cooperate when you tell them you won’t.
    But so many vets seem to really, really believe that vaccination protects and doesn’t harm your animal in any way, ignoring the tons of evidence to the contrary!
    I have already mentioned on this site how a lady I know has turned around her dog’s life-long allergies (treated for 8 years with an expensive, possibly cancer causing drug as she discovered) through a raw diet and herbs. Yet her own veterinarian daughter doesn’t want to believe “all that stuff about herbs and raw diet”, despite the evidence!
    What about how many vets believe:
    *The drugs they prescribe are actually healing the animal and can’t be linked to further illness, injury or even death?
    *A raw diet is risky (the bacteria!) and unbalanced, despite the many shining examples of healthy animals who are fed this way?
    *Herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy don’t really work, despite the many animals who have been helped or healed?
    All of the above also applies to the human medical community. So many health professionals are finding another way (going back to what we traditionally knew and practiced long ago) and having great success healing people, but many still stubbornly stick with what they learned in medical school (heavily drug based).
    So in answer to the question of whether the mental shift is possible, I think it is already happening but very, very slowly. There will come a time when the chronic illnesses that are occurring and increasing by leaps and bounds in both the animal and human population cannot be ignored.
    As you’ve said Dr. Will, voting with your pocketbook will speak volumes to those who are purely interested making money.
    It’s a small wave that I hope will some day build to a tsunami!

  7. Patti Zentara on June 27, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Great article for humans and beloved pets. As an owner of several cats over a long period of time, I trust vets about as much as I trust MDs,
    hospitals for humans, ,vet hospitals or vet clinics. Which is a fat zero.!
    They over- vaccinate, fill animals bodies with poison to kill fleas. I do
    wonder…how many of my cats might have been better off not seeing a Vet. Alas, they are gone. Two died in the hospital.. They were not sick.
    Nor suffering from a terminal illness.
    I had one vet -Dr Anna Si-Li~ an aciupuncturist and wholistic vet. She is no longer in my state, Anna was a cut above the rest. She made herself available to me 24/7 by phone calls if a pet was sick.
    If you lost your pet, she wrote a personal letter, not a Rainbow Bridge commercial card.
    And she would donate a huge chunk of change to UC Davis,, iin memory of your animal’s name.
    I am anti- vaccine and anti flea medications. The vets instill a great fear in their clients.
    It is up to us to find a vet that is holistic, in my view.
    As a human, I have to protect myself from MD”s as much as I can.
    My cat , Luvey, has no voice. I speak for her longevity.
    Best wished to all… I am new to this blog.
    Thank you all for your input.

  8. Nora Claypool on June 27, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I think the answer to your question is a little too obvious, doc. Reality seems to be setting in, thanks to those like yourself who call them like they see them–red-faced, even if it’s painful–the honest.
    G. Edward Griffin exposed the industrial medical complex several decades ago, which sent it’s nasty roots into the veterinary field. The love of money–profit over patient wellbeing–is just one aspect of this horrifying control mechanism. Saying no to it is a beginning.
    Personally, I’d be dead if I’d listened to my doctors, a fact that has imprinted on my brain and adjusted my thinking towards the whole medical profession. They came pretty close to doing me in with their ineffective and poisonous drugs which are their stock in trade. If the drugs didn’t do it, the COST would eventually. The price of some of these prescriptions is mind blowing, 10,000 times their worth.
    When I took my health into my own hands, I got well. I’ve done the same with my animals, and it’s paying off.
    I hope to see the paradigm shift in my lifetime where the bloated, overgrown hospitals stand empty and shuttered, dusty clinics are re purposed as homeopathic practices or health food stores. With the momentum it’s gaining, I will. You’re part of that momentum doc, made possible by the Internet, keep up the good work.

  9. Barbara on June 27, 2016 at 9:59 am

    My vet tells me that his clients vaccinate b/c it’s cheaper that titer testing I said thanks but I titer. period!

  10. Sandy Todd on June 27, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I so enjoy reading your articles. I try to be holistic with my dogs and feed them raw with a few good supplements. I have come to the conclusion over the past several years of losing my beloved dogs that the least veterinary intervention in their lives is the better path for their health. Visits to the Vet seem to bring up problems that then need intervention. Problems of which I was blissfully unaware before the Vet visit. Overly aggressive Veterinary intervention leads to more problems and I attribute the death of my very dear sweet Pekinese at 13 to too much medical care. Had I said, no, let’s just wait and see, he probably would have much less trauma in last few years and maybe had a few more years of life. Now, I’m very cautious about what I agree to do and who I choose to treat my dogs. Thanks for all you do for us.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 30, 2016 at 5:50 am

      I hear you, Sandy. Cats are a great example as a species. They’ve gotten far more chronic disease since they took over “most popular pet” a decade or two back, and went to vets for the boatload of vaccines, poisons, and poor quality kibble. Now diabetic, hyperthyroid, scratching their allergic skin bloody…
      A good middle ground, and some powerful words are these: “I’m only here seeking an exam (or a diagnosis). I’ll weigh my treatment options when you tell me what’s going on.”

  11. Joyce on June 27, 2016 at 7:49 am

    What a great question! I think the answer all depends on whether we want to not only see the truth but admit to it.
    Largely, as humans we are prone to errors, and that includes doctors.
    It would seem to me we have basically two types of people, those willing to take a truthful assessment of things, and admit when they are wrong and those who seem to fit into the image of perfection, or perhaps it’s the perception of perfection. These types often hold that image in highest regard, unwilling to look in the mirror or a situation with a critical eye/mind.
    An example would be having a doctor tell you they are not sure what the problem is, and continue to assess things, before pulling the trigger on a prescription or a protocol.
    Thinking now of how many prescriptions are written or surgeries have happened, when perhaps a little wait and see would have really been the best option.
    I’ve had this experience, and I’m sure most people have.
    Years ago, I my right wrist was suffering from pain from overuse. I was a hair designer, and the repetitive motion of many years caused my tendons to become inflamed.
    I went to a hand specialist ( read surgeon) to see what the problem was.
    First doctor wanted to do surgery. Said my lunate bone appeared to be necrotic.
    They’d take a chip of bone from my hip and do a bone graft. But the possibility of arthritis after surgery was high.
    So, I had a second opinion only to discover this doctor was not really forming his own thoughts, merely said he recommended surgery as well, but couldn’t say what my problem was but “surgery wouldn’t hurt”
    So I decided a third opinion was needed.
    This time, I sought out a teaching hospital, a University hospital. This particular doctor was known for having perfected some innovations for hand surgery.
    As it turns out, he was very conservative in his approach, and really listened to me when I explained that I suspected overuse and tendinitis may be the real cause, not the lunate bone.
    He admitted he was unsure of the point of origin in my problem, but insisted this warranted a wait and see what happens.
    So I opted for no surgery.
    I ended up finding a supplement, MSM, which I built up the dosage until I began to get relief!
    The inflammation dissipated over time and went away, as did the pain.
    That was a long story, but certainly illustrates why you’d not want to just take the first advice without taking the time to really assess the situation.
    The third doctor was the person I respected the most for admitted he wasn’t sure, and offered this approach of waiting.
    I am so glad I didn’t have that surgery.
    I may still have a bone in my wrist that is wonky, but I don’t have arthritis from an unneeded surgery.
    Due your diligence always.
    Trust your gut after you make an informed decision.
    Always keep an open mind to alternatives, as it might just end up being best in the outcome.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 30, 2016 at 5:40 am

      Amen, Joyce. Due diligence is worth it. Unthinking quick decisions, especially in chronic disease, will come around to bite you later.

  12. Lynn on June 27, 2016 at 5:27 am

    How about this – 2 young men who are coughing go to walk-in medical clinics, are told: first one,” you have bronchitis – use this inhaler and take prednisone”. Still coughing. Second one, “you are allergic to pollen – use this inhaler”. Still coughing.
    I am so grateful for your helpful blogs that expose the false and tell the truth on vaccines, and give me confidence to use natural remedies to treat anything that may come up with my precious vital animal. Please keep sounding the alarms and providing sound advice. We appreciate your sense of humor, too.

  13. Karen Newman on June 27, 2016 at 2:24 am

    I called in to the local vets on Friday as my friend is the practice manager and I happened to be passing. We were chatting as this young women came in with a very poorly looking tiny puppy, shaking and shivering, my friend showed her into the vet and whispered to me they were vaccinated yesterday, one of the litter has died already and you have just seen the second casualty. My friend of course knows my thoughts on the whole vaccination protocol….stay clear breeders and puppy owners and keep listening to Will Falconer

  14. Lyn on June 27, 2016 at 1:58 am

    Do I think this mental shift is possible? Not in my lifetime! I’ve lost too many little best friends to have confidence in “Dr. Whitecoat” any more. My latest loss was due to degerative myelopathy (DM). Both Corgis were diagnosed at age 11. The U. of Missouri was conducting a study for the cause of DM so I sent blood samples to the university. I received reports that my dogs did indeed have DM, and that, as yet, there was no known cause. I figured it was something to do with spinal column but couldn’t find any reports on the net until recently (7 years after the deaths) when I finally found an article indicating that the cause was vaccinations.
    My Aussie has had one rabies shot when she was four because the airline required it before she was sent to me. She has been fed raw all her life, she’s nearly 12 and my beautiful, well loved dog is indeed a vital animal.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 27, 2016 at 4:45 am

      Hi Lyn,
      I hear you. Absolutely heart breaking disease. I wrote some about it in this post, and recently learned there are some genetic “predispositions,” but probably not something strong enough to weed out with selective breeding. And vaccines most definitely can send them into it, as my post observed.
      Bravo on your latest! One lucky girl to have received all you’ve given her.

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