Tom Ballard, ND's blog

Caution: Supplements are Deadly
December 29, 2010, 10:20 am
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Oops, I’m wrong, as are all the other dire warnings you’ve heard about vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.

In fact, there were NO REPORTED DEATHS from supplements in 2008 (the most recent information collected by the National Poison Data System) This included all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbal products, even the much-feared kava kava and ephedra.

That’s zero, zip, nada.

Compare those statistics to these from The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000:

  • 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
  • 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications

These total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from iatrogenic (doctor induced) causes. That places iatrogenic causes as the # 3 killer – right up there with heart disease. And, it is believed that only around 10% of medical errors and adverse reactions are ever reported.

Does this mean never go to the hospital or take a medication?


But it puts the dangers of supplements into perspective and alerts you to where the real dangers to your health lurk.


Spreading Fear of Chiropractic
November 11, 2010, 10:01 am
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“Chiropractors are dangerous,” is a statement I’ve heard repeatedly over the years. I’d never looked up any studies, but reasoned, “If they’re so dangerous, why is their malpractice insurance so low compared to MDs?” (Naturopathic malpractice insurance is even lower.)

Well, now we have a defining article, picked up by WebMD from The International Journal of Clinical Practice (2010:64(10)), entitled “Death after Chiropractic: A Review of Published Cases.”

The author searched the medical literature and found 26 deaths! Chiropractic is so dangerous, those deaths must have been in the last week, right? Month? Year? Ah, no, that’s since 1934.

The author’s conclusion: “Numerous deaths have occurred after chiropractic manipulations. The risks of this treatment by far outweigh its benefit.” She was particularly alarmed since most deaths from chiropractic are not reported. There are probably several times this number of deaths. Alarming!

Any deaths from medical treatment are sad and we should do anything we can to stop them. However, let’s put these numbers into perspective. In a 2000 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors found hard evidence for 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic (MD) causes. They estimated that only about 10% of adverse drug reactions are reported.

Now, back to the chiropractic numbers. Let’s say they are underreported by 1000 %. So, in 76 years there may have been 26,000 deaths from chiropractic. This is slightly over 1/10th of the deaths that are caused by MDs EVERY YEAR.

When MDs are confronted with their death statistics they defend themselves by saying that’s the price we pay for having the best medical system in the world (However, we don’t have the best medical system in the world, actually rating quite poorly on longevity, infant mortality, and many other parameters.) For chiropractic, on the other hand, it’s considered a scandal of the first order if the entire profession contributes to a death about every three years. Every chiropractor in the U.S. (estimated 100,000) would have to contribute to the death of 2.25 patients a year to keep up with MDs.

You want fear mongering? There are approximately 700,000 MDs working in the U.S. That means that each year, statistically, one in three MDs kills a patient. By these calculations (225,000 deaths from 700,000 MDs), going to an MD is, statistically, one of the most dangerous things you can do. You’d have a better chance of living if you walked in a high-crime neighborhood with money sticking out of your pockets.

It’s natural for any group to defend themselves against those considered to be their rivals. It would be a better use of time, however, for MDs to look at ways to cooperate with chiropractors, or at least stick to cleaning up their own problems, since calling chiropractors “dangerous” clearly doesn’t hold up.

Hospitals are sick houses
October 21, 2010, 11:59 am
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Where I have my car worked on the mechanics place a paper mat on the floor and seat to prevent the transfer of grease from the engine compartment to the upholstery. If our hospitals were as cautious about transferring germs, about 100,000 lives could be saved every year. That’s the number of people that are known to die of hospital acquired infections every year.

The death rate from hospital infections is probably much higher than this since it is well known that most hospitals do not monitor or keep accurate statistics. According to Peter Pronovost, MD, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, there are no measurable, achievable and routine strategies to prevent patient harm in our nation’s hospitals. Dr Pronovost blames doctor arrogance for much of the problem.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 5-10% of those admitted to hospitals will acquire an infection. It is estimated that hospital infections are the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and cost 6 billion dollars a year.

How could this be? Yes, hospital patients often have compromised immune systems.  More importantly, there is a lack of what is known as “hand hygiene.”  According to a 2003 study by the CDC, 52% of doctors did not wash their hands between patients. They also found that hand hygiene was only practiced by 29-48% of hospital employees.

In spite of all our knowledge, nothing much has changed about hospitals since the Middle Ages where people knew they were going to die. Arrogance, according to Dr Pronovost, plays a role. I would add; disregard for basic science.  If your model for treating disease is to give a drug, then you neglect such basics as hand washing.