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Q: Guns & Doctors - the truth? ( Answered,   6 Comments )
Subject: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: karimb-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 24 Sep 2004 17:31 PDT
Expires: 24 Oct 2004 17:31 PDT
Question ID: 406051

The following text is all over the Internet.  Can someone find it's
origin and check the source of the statistics - and find the real
statistics if they are incorrect.  Especially the 'accidental
fatalities cause by physicians' - I cannot find the source for this
figure and think it is bogus.

Many thanks



a. The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.

b. Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000. c.

Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171. (Statistics courtesy of

U.S.Dept. of Health & Human Services)



a. The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000.

b. The number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) is

1,500. c. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.000188.


Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than

gun owners.


Remember, "Guns don't kill people, doctors do".


Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 24 Sep 2004 19:53 PDT
Hello again Monroe. Glad to see you again!

Guns & Doctors - the truth?


You WON'T find the source to the ?statistics? you showed us because
the source is unknown. In fact, this is merely a very prolific,
somewhat darkly amusing urban legend that many of us can recall
reading many years ago and it never seems to die off. Like many urban
legends, this one has changed a bit from it?s original source, but you
might find it interesting, and perhaps even surprising, to know that
this particular one changed "before" it actually became internet
discussion fodder ? that?s actually how it got here in the first

You see, this whole thing started because of an article published in
1999 by the INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE (IOM) that quoted a statistic saying
that in the MEDICAL DEVICE INDUSTRY medical errors are the cause of
somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths a year. First, this figure
does seem huge but you will notice that it clearly is not the 100,000
deaths that many of us have read in this Internet posting then and
now.  Secondly, the statistic is related to the ENTIRE MEDICAL DEVICE
INDUSTRY, not only physicians in particular - so NO, it isn't true at
all. This industry wide issue might justify a comparatively high
number when all deaths are calculated but no...the media saw this
article and made an enormous issue of it. In short order the number of
deaths annually was rounded off to the highest quoted figure and
before you know it, it was DOCTORS who were killing 100,00 people a
year rather than every quirky accident, failed medical device,
malfunction, etc. Frankly, considering how long this urban legend has
been alive, I'm surprised it has not become 100 million by now.

What the internet legend DOESN'T go on to say was the IOM report has
been disputed by reputable sources. According to this source after the
IOM original article appeared the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL
ASSOCIATION (JAMA) responded by suggesting that the statiistics were
absurdly overstated and "suggested that the number of deaths due to
error is probably closer to between 5000 and 15,000 annually."

'Medical Errors: Leading Cause of Death or Urban Legend?'

?Who is at fault then for putting this crap out??
Who knows, if I had to guess I?d say thousands of people have shared
this responsbility in some way or other over the years for breathing
new life into it and passing it on or posting it anew on the internet.
After all, these are not real statistics and the whole thing is a
joke. In fact, this very message you showed us appears on lots of joke
and humor pages that are intended for that very purpose - to make us
laugh. Here is but one example:


?Who, or what, is the source for the original urban legend??
There?s no way to answer that by pinning it down to a person?s name,
but suffice it to say that the whole ridiculous thing was born through
gross exaggeration of the 1999 Institute of Medicine article.
Actually, unless one falls for the nonsense of the statistics and
cannot be reasoned with otherwise, he will clearly see that the
legendary set of statistics is NOT about doctors at all. No, the
intent of the article is HUMOR, not by disparaging the medical
profession, but by justifying ? in a silly and entertaining way ? GUN
OWNERSHIP. It?s a simple as the people who swallow it?hook, line and

Below you will find that I have carefully defined my search strategy
for you in the event that you need to search for more information. By
following the same type of searches that I did you may be able to
enhance the research I have provided even further. I hope you find
that my research exceeds your expectations. If you have any questions
about my research please post a clarification request prior to rating
the answer. Otherwise, I welcome your rating and your final comments
and I look forward to working with you again in the near future. Thank
you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad ? Google Answers Researcher


Defined above



Google ://


Urban legend



"Guns don't kill people, doctors do"

?Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year?

Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 24 Sep 2004 19:56 PDT
Dear karimb-ga:

You will quickly notice, I'm sure, that I inadvertently addressed your
answer to someone other than you. That is an embarrassing error and I
apologize. I was reading the additional comments to your question at
the time and just had a temporary brain lapse.

I hope you forgive my clumsy error.


Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 25 Sep 2004 17:40 PDT
See? There's a perfect example similar to what the media did with this
urban legend. (Methuselah is said to have lived about 969 years, not
8000+. If he'd lived that long he'd probably still be alive today).

It's easy to twist what one had heard or read so that it generates a
laugh, isn't it? That's exactly the purpose of what happened with this
1999 Institute of Medicine article, to be humorous. That "is" what you
were doing wasn't it?

I thought so. I rest my case.


Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 25 Sep 2004 17:41 PDT
(referring to probonopublico-ga's comment below)
Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: denco-ga on 24 Sep 2004 21:05 PDT
The point that might be missed in all of this, is that even with the most
conservative numbers, when you compare accidental deaths by firearms to
preventable deaths by error by medical persons (nurses, doctors, etc.) then
medical people appear more dangerous than firearm accidents.  I am not talking
mechanical failures, etc. but rather things such as infections introduced
during operations (possibly up to 20,000 preventable deaths by itself) and
(the possible big one) incorrect medication, that are the cause.

Whether this is a fair comparison (Does one include murders by firearms?  Does
one include device malfunctions, on both sides of the debate?) is another issue

I don't find the incredible lack of precision in the (perhaps self-serving)
JAMA "statistics" to be very much comfort.  I would hope JAMA, if all that
full of "facts," could come with up with a more precise number.

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: probonopublico-ga on 24 Sep 2004 21:58 PDT
Or ....

Is this merely the tip of a worldwide conspiracy to control population densities?

Remember that Methuselah, among others, lived to 8,000+ years WITHOUT
any of our modern doctors, pharmacists, drug companies, medical
gadgetry, etc. etc.
Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: karimb-ga on 25 Sep 2004 19:03 PDT
Thank you for your very helpful answers.  My intent was really to get
to the bottom of these 'facts'.  Of course the whole premise of only
counting 'accidental deaths' for firearm fatalities is ridiculous.

I would still be interested if the US Dept of Health has ever
published statistics on physician related fatalities - or whether
this, as you say, is complete fabrication based on a different report.

Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: tutuzdad-ga on 26 Sep 2004 11:14 PDT
Here are a number of republished citations to the actual IOM report as
it originally appeared and from which these "facts" were misconstrued:


Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: tutuzdad-ga on 26 Sep 2004 11:21 PDT
The original IOM report was entitled:

'To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System'

The Patient Safety Task Force is the body that is compiling statistics
from a variety of sources with regard to this issue and one must take
into account the tens of millions of people who take medication and
seek medical care on a daily basis.

Patient Safety Task Force

To obtain more information about the Patient Safety Task Force and its
activities, contact:

James B. Battles, Ph.D.
Senior Service Fellow for Patient Safety
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 427-1332 voice
(301) 427-1341 fax

Subject: Re: Guns & Doctors - the truth?
From: 1anton1-ga on 26 Sep 2004 14:07 PDT
Hi tutuzdad,

I have read many of your answers, with great admiration for your research.

This answer (in particular) is fantastic.  I work with statistics, and
very often see how easily they are skewed e.g. (this is true) a survey
posted on the internet Q1: Do you use the internet ? ....

Great work.

I look forward to reading your next answer.

Keep it up !

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