Dr. Barbara Starfield
From time to time, I reprint my interview with Dr. Barbara Starfield. Each time I try to write a new introduction.
On July 26, 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association published Starfield’s review, “Is US health really the best in the world?”
In it, Starfield, who was a respected public health expert working at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, stated that:
- The US medical system kills 225,000 Americans a year.
- 106,000 deaths per year from FDA-approved medical drugs.
- 119,000 deaths per year from error-ridden treatment in hospitals.
I’m aware that independent research puts those death figures much higher, but I focus on Dr. Starfield’s work because no mainstream reporter or government official could challenge her credentials or the credentials of the journal that published her findings.
And yes, there were stories in the press at the time, in 2000. But the coverage wasn’t aggressive, and it faded out quickly.
And none of the mainstream coverage did the obvious extrapolations. For example, we are talking about 2.25 MILLION deaths per decade. And over a MILLION deaths from medicines the FDA has approved as safe and effective.
Based on my long knowledge of mainstream reporters, I would make these estimates. 70% of them weren’t even aware of the significance of Starfield’s findings. That is, they were oblivious. The human toll didn’t register in their minds.
25% were aware Dr. Starfield had discovered shocking facts, but they didn’t believe the story had “legs.” They assumed it wouldn’t make a big splash.
5% saw how huge the story could become, if it were assigned as an ongoing investigation, like Watergate. But they knew their editors wouldn’t permit that, because among other reasons, their newspapers and television outlets were heavily dependent on pharmaceutical advertising dollars.
So the story died.