Conventional Medicine is the Leading Cause of Death

Prescription DeathPrescription Death

You may have thought cancer or heart disease takes the lives of more Americans than any other illness or event. But conventional medicine is actually the leading cause of death today!

Iatrogenesis is known as the “inadvertent and preventable induction of disease or complications by the medical treatment or procedures of a physician or surgeon.”

Health Care in America Today

The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was created by Congress to analyze scientific and technical issues in America. From 1972 to 1995, the OTA conducted studies on health care, pollution and other such topics.

After producing an unfavorable report of US health care, the agency was disbanded by Congress.

The OTA’s 1995 report on health care found that:

  • Life expectancy in the US was among the lowest in developed countries
  • Infant mortality rates in the US are poor
  • Technology in US medicine is expensive and unrestrained
  • 67% of physicians in the US in 1990 were specialists
  • The drug industry exacerbates health care costs while new drugs rarely provide more benefit than old
  • The FDA doesn’t consider the effectiveness of new treatments or compare new products to old
  • The FDA does not consider non-drug alternatives
  • The pre- and post-approval processes for drugs is lacking

The report concluded with these statements:

“Only 10-20% of all procedures used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trial,” and “There are no mechanisms in place to limit dissemination of technologies regardless of their clinical value.”

The Nutrition Institute of America funded an independent review of “government-approved” medicine that was published in 2006. Professors Gary Null and Dorothy Smith, along with doctors Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman and Debora Rasio titled the report “Death by Medicine.”

The researchers found that America’s leading cause of death isn’t heart disease or cancer: its conventional medicine. They found that the iatrogenic death rate in the US (death caused by doctors and/or medical treatments) is 783,936 a year. That’s 84,059 more deaths than those caused by heart disease in 2001 and 230,865 more deaths than those caused by cancer.

Over a decade, the scientists predict that iatrogenic deaths will total about 7.8 million, “more than all the casualties from all the wars fought by the US throughout its entire history,” a death rate equivalent to that caused by six jumbo jets falling out of the sky every day.

They also believe the numbers are actually much higher because most iatrogenic deaths aren’t reported as such: only 5 to 20% of iatrogenic deaths are reported for fear of lawsuits and because codes for reporting deaths due to drug side effects and other medical errors don’t even exist in many cases. The number of deaths due to conventional medicine may be 20 times higher than the numbers depicted here.

The study authors, using the most conservative statistics they could find, broke down iatrogenic deaths over ten years as following:

Adverse Drug Reactions 1.06 million
Medical Error 0.98 million
Bedsores 1.15 million
Hospital Infections 0.88 million
Malnutrition in Health Care 1.09 million
Outpatients 1.99 million
Unnecessary Procedures 371,360
Surgery-related 320,000

The “Death by Medicine” doctors also took a look at unnecessary medical care over the course of a decade. They found that 89 million people are hospitalized unnecessarily each year and that 17 million iatrogenic events will occur among this number. 75 million Americans receive unnecessary medical procedures over a decade, 15 million of which result in an iatrogenic event. 164 million people will receive unneeded medical treatment within a decade.

So what’s behind these death rates and adverse events? Profit, politics, defensive medicine, lack of research on treatments, one-size-fits-all drugs, lack of doctor-patient time and the abuse and overmedication of our elderly are all culprits.

Conflicts of Interest

Former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Marcia Angell has written that pharmaceutical stock and other financial incentives for scientists are twisting medical research and science altogether to suit business goals.

Not only do such credible journals accept studies from researchers with conflicts of interest, when a drug company funds a study, ABC News found that there is a 90% chance that the drug will be deemed effective compared to the 50% rate of this conclusion when a study isn’t funded by a pharmaceutical company.

The US General Accounting Office found that “of the 198 drugs approved by the FDA between 1976 and 1985…102 (or 51.5%) has serious post-approval risks,” including “heart failure, myocardial infarction, anaphylaxis, respiratory depression and arrest, seizures, kidney and liver failure, severe blood disorders, birth defects and fetal toxicity, and blindness.”


Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 90% of upper respiratory infections are viral; more than 40% of the 50 million prescriptions written each year for antibiotics are prescribed for such infections. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses and the overuse of antibiotics has likely led to the drug-resistant superbugs and the 88,000 deaths due to hospital infections every year.

The CDC does not report on the research that supports nutraceuticals for viral infections and immune system strengthening that could lessen antibiotic abuse, the study authors lament.

Hospitals receive funding based on how many beds they fill. This fact, and the fact that doctors practice defensive medicine to protect themselves from lawsuits, results in unnecessary hospitalizations and many unnecessary screenings and treatments.

Unnecessary Treatments

The media often drives unnecessary treatments and the prescribing of unneeded drugs. While cosmetic surgeries may number the greatest of these, cesarean sections, cardiac surgeries, endoscopies, back surgeries and pain-relieving surgeries are vastly over-used.

Dr. Barbara Starfield reports that the overuse of technology creates a “cascade effect” in treating patients: unnecessary outpatient treatment often leads to more visits, more prescriptions, more hospitalizations and deaths.

X-rays, CT scans, mammograms and other such diagnostics are costly and cumulatively dangerous, yet they are given regularly to soothe patient fears and often lead to unnecessary surgeries.

Pregnant women used to have x-rays regularly until a study found that they increased death in children from cancer by 40%.

Coronary angiography, the use of radiation to look at blood vessels and the heart, is another widely practiced diagnostic whose effects are unknown.

Dr. John Goffman believes that x-rays, CT scans, mammography and fluoroscopy contribute to 75% of the new cancers diagnosed every year and increases in heart disease. He believes that ionizing radiation will cause 100 million premature deaths from 2006 to 2016.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Sarno says that many back surgeries are based on abnormal x-rays even though multiple studies have found that there is often no connection between abnormalities on x-rays and back pain.


Professor Ulrich Abel analyzed the use of chemotherapy for epithelial cancer and published the results in 1989. He found no direct evidence that chemotherapy helps people with advanced carcinoma to survive; only a slight benefit in patients with small-cell lung cancer; and perhaps some slight benefit in those with ovarian cancer.

He said that the belief that chemotherapy can prolong survival is an “opinion based on a fallacy which is not supported by clinical studies.”

High-dose chemotherapy (HDC) is still a treatment of choice, however, for breast cancer unchecked by normal doses, even though a March 2000 study found that HDC held no benefits and even slightly reduced survival rates.

Women and Conventional Medicine

The “Death by Medicine” doctors take special note of the unnecessary procedures practiced on women in America. 19th-century views of women, the idea that women’s reproductive organs were the basis of physical and mental illnesses have leftover influences on medicine today.

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman has studied this influence on conventional medicine. She reports that:

  • thousands of “preventive” mastectomies are performed every year
  • more women than men are prescribed drugs
  • women are more often given preventive medications that result in side effects than men
  • one-third of women are given hysterectomies before they’ve even gone through menopause
  • fetal monitoring is common practice even though the CDC doesn’t recommend it, it’s use isn’t supported by research and it may result in higher rates of cesarean section
  • menopause and childbirth are considered medical conditions rather than normal biological practices
  • the one-third of post-menopausal women on synthetic hormones don’t experience heart disease prevention or cognitive benefits but do experience increased risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke
  • Obstetric-gynecologic surgeries represent 23% of all US surgeries performed in 1983, reports the study authors. Cesarean sections take top billing and hysterectomies come in second place.

They estimate that 640,000 cesarean sections are performed each year in the US and that these increase mortality rates 3 to 4 times and disease rates by 20 times compared to vaginal deliveries.

Sick Care System

The “Death by Medicine” doctors say that the overuse of medical testing, technology, surgery and drugs does little to prevent disease and results in the most US deaths.

What is more important to consider, they say, is the practice of preventive  medicine, changes that would address the root causes of disease: stress and its effects on the immune system, a compromised brain/body connection, lack of physical activity, denatured and processed food intake, and exposure to environmental toxins.


Life Extension Foundation (2006)

National Institutes of Health (2004)

Journal of American Medical Association (1998)

Center for Science in the Public Interest (2004)

Josh Axe

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8 comments so far - add yours!

  1. lisa says:

    <p>This is the best I ever read by Dr. Axe.Some of the facts stated are what I been saying for years.Look in the mirror and realize YOU are the one most responsible for your own health.Have a open mind and realize you are what you eat.Thank you Dr. Axe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!</p>

  2. Pam says:

    <p>Josh, this is a great article. You’re hitting on so many things that we are thinking about and reading about, but you put them in a concise and easy to read format. You’re getting the point across that we have to take care of ourselves and not depend on doctors to do it. They don’t know us and they don’t care. Thanks for the energy you put into educating all of us on &quot;healthcare&quot; as it should be.</p>

  3. Tom says:

    Sorry, I have to take exception with the chemotherapy statement. I realize there were a lot of qualifiers given, but it’s easy to read it and think you are discounting *all* forms of chemotherapy.

    Just to provide a different perspective, one only has to look at testicular cancer to see the efficacy of chemotherapy… prior to the discovery of cisplatin, TC was a virtual death sentence if not caught before metastasis. Today the survival rate is above 90%, regardless of stage thanks to the B/EP protocol.

    Chemotherapy obviously isn’t a cure-all yet, as tens of thousands of people die from cancer every year despite our advances, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Dr Eric says:

      Tom…Chemo can definitely be effective in killing cancerous cells…that however is not the major issue…Chemo also kills all of your good cells (WBC) that make up your immune system…my wife’s best friend died of pneumonia at age 32 and she lived here in Florida. No healthy 32 yo in Florida is dying of pneumonia. She did however use Chemotherapy and Radiation to fight non-hogkins lymphoma. She beat the cancer and consequently died because she also killed her immune system and couldnt fight off the common cold, turned to pneumonia and she died. There are better alternatives than Chemo and Radiation.

  4. Alan George says:

    could a person with H.S.P. hereitary spastic paralegia benefit from your treatment thanks

    • Dr. Axe says:

      Truthfully Alan, I think anyone could benefit from changing their lifestyle. If you Eat Real Food, take Real Whole Food Supplements, Exercise, Improve posture, Laugh and Build Joy it can only improve your health.

  5. charles thomas says:

    When treatment choices are determined by profit as opposed to effectiveness a substandard system will exist.

  6. Ron Davis says:

    A doctor was interviewed on a TV morning show. She was asked what some of the health issues facing us are. The doctor said most people were deficient in Vit D. She said we need to get out in the sun more, but said we need to use UV blocker to prevent skin cancer. What is the use in getting more sun to increase Vit D if we are using UV blockers to block UV rays? Brilliant!

    Another doctor on another show was asked the same question. His reply was the same, get more sun…..because it produces a “Vital” substance in the skin required before we can produce Vit D in the skin. He kept saying “Vital” substance without ever telling us what the vital substance is. Why? because the vital substance is Cholesterol. Brilliant!
    My mother was killed by the medical system. My father was mandated Chemo drugs despite only having weeks to live. My wife’s uncle died of an “experimental” procedure. Another person I know was given anti depressants and anti anxiety drugs and became so depressed and suicidal that they were almost committed to a hospital. Then was told the doctor could not treat him anymore, which included the scripts for drugs he was using to exist.He was never told about the addiction or the withdrawals.
    Before my education I took an anti depressant drug–not because I was depressed, but because the doctor had no idea what to do. This drug caused my heart to race, chest pains and night mares. When I called the doctor to report these effects, I was told…..”Oh, don’t worry, these effects are “NORMAL.” I was also pushed out of an examining room by a doctor who refused to offer a diagnosis and rather told me, “You’ve got it,” and slammed the door and locked it.
    Now it is my mission in life to educate as many people as i can. God Bless You.
    Thanks for your stand against thr rage of the machine.

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