KILLER CARE by James B. Lieber


How Medical Error Became America's Third Largest Cause of Death, and What Can Be Done About It
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A succinct, disturbing report on the prevalence of malpractice in modern medicine.

Pittsburgh-based employment attorney Lieber (Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks of the “Supermarket to the World,” Archer Daniels Midland, 2000, etc.) assesses medical error with a straightforward approach and provides chilling results. A victim of misdiagnosis himself, he believes “medical errors always have been with us.” The author examines a number of cases, including college freshman Libby Zion’s untimely death in 1984, Floridian Willie King’s grievous amputation error, and Jesica Santillan’s death due to the mismatched blood type of an organ transplant. Fortunately, Lieber doesn’t decorate his study with scare tactics or confusing jargon; his perspective is clearly that of an informed consumer concerned with the welfare of those seeking American medical care. He cites a downward attitudinal shift in perception of professional clinical care which began in the 1990s, when a bloom of malpractice cases—which Lieber lists in chilling succession—initiated disclosure clauses and fostered quality improvement and monitoring initiatives. The media firestorm became fueled by further exposure from celebrities like Dana Carvey, Dennis Quaid, and the late Andy Warhol (and more recently, Joan Rivers), who all were on the receiving end of lethal or potentially lethal medical negligence. The malpractice statistical data borne from the ensuing scrutiny of medical centers became a startling wake-up call for the industry at large. The book’s second half is perhaps more user-friendly from a consumer standpoint, as the author provides illuminating, cautionary chapters focusing on avoiding prescription medication blunders, the rampant politicization of the health care spectrum, and the inherent dangers lurking within the “maze-like, chaotically organized acute and long-term care institutions.” While not a medical professional, Lieber does offer proactive patient advice for those seeking to reduce the risk of infection or injury while hospitalized. He concludes with a hopeful appeal to medical environments to be more vigilant about performance standards.

An imperative analysis that begs for discussion by industry watchdogs and consumers alike.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 2015
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: OR Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2015


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