MEDICALLY CAUSED DEATH IN AMERICA: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DR. BARBARA STARFIELD
By Jon Rappoport
February 17, 2012
This is a big, big one. And I’m going to build up to it, so have patience, because I want to make several absolutely vital points.
I’ve had many requests for a reprint of my 2009 interview with Dr. Starfield. And in the last few weeks, we’ve had an influx of new readers who aren’t aware of this vital chapter in the annals of US medical crime. Yes, crime. I don’t say that lightly.
There are vast implications in the substance of the late Dr. Starfield’s writings. At the top, I want to mention an implication that escapes most people.
US newspapers are dying. The internet is crushing them. And yet, if the NY Times and the Washington Post and the LA Times wanted to resuscitate themselves, they could do it with stories like this. The American people would be motivated to the hilt to read about the true extent of medically caused death.
I’m not just talking about a one-day headline. I’m talking about a Watergate-like investigation that pounds and pounds on corruption day after day, month after month—only much, much bigger. Because once Dr. Starfield’s findings hit page one, and after a few relentless reporters went on the hunt, corroborating witnesses would come out of the woodwork. Witnesses with impeccable mainstream credentials. And their stories would shock people to the core.
People would buy newspapers off the rack like they buy coffee and beer and video games and cell phones and gasoline and underwear and toilet paper and lipstick and fast food. The Times would have to schedule extra press runs just to keep up with the demand. Its financial bottom line would soon look like Christmas.
The floodgates would open, and the medical system in the US would take hit after hit. The alarming and staggering truth would break huge holes in the medical Matrix.
But that won’t happen.
Why? Because the great esteemed centers of American journalism are part of that Matrix. They are in the business of falsehood, omission, diversion, and obfuscation. They live by those hallmarks.
You could talk to the publisher of the New York Times and present him with an ironclad business plan for pulling his paper out of its deep financial trouble, based on covering true stories like Dr. Starfield’s, and you would find no joy, because he would rather go down with the ship than go against the Matrix.
The Times and other hoary media outlets live by the rule of limited hangout. In intelligence parlance, that means admitting a small piece of the truth in order to hide the rest.
So in the medical arena, it means running stories on the harmful effects of a pharmaceutical drug that has just been pulled off the market. BUT NEVER doing a full investigation of the effects of all medical drugs.
“We’ll show you a tree in the forest, but not the whole forest.”
I know how it works, because as a reporter I’ve been there. I’ve approached editors of various media outlets with stories that crack the Matrix trance, and I’ve had those stories tossed back at me.
“We’re just not interested,” they say. “This isn’t our kind of piece.” Or: “Well, we already covered that.” But they didn’t cover it. They did a limited hangout on it. They ran a story that exposed one tiny corner of the whole bloody mess.
I want you to keep all this in mind as you read what Dr. Starfield has to say in this interview. Until her death last year, she was one of those people with impeccable mainstream credentials. She was respected and revered by her colleagues. She was a woman who had set off an explosion TEN years earlier, in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, and the media silence that followed was profound, eerie, and deafening.
If the mighty newspapers of our age had jumped in with both feet, Dr. Starfield would have become one of the most famous people in America. Her work would have shaken the medical cartel down to its foundations. She would have saved more lives and averted more suffering than anyone else in this nation. With no exaggeration, we would now be living in a different world.
I fully understand that media outlets black out stories that would endanger their own advertising dollars, and pharmaceutical ad dollars are extensive and precious. But that’s just the beginning of the true reason the major newspapers and television networks decline to run pieces that would once again make them gigantically successful.
To understand the true reason, you need to grasp something about the Matrix itself. It is a reality that maintains its power because it can engineer SILENCE. It can create EMPTY SPACE. Not only can it invent pictures that are false, not only can it pander to certain emotional links in people’s shrunken universes, it can make Swiss Cheese appear as if it has no holes in it. This is an art.
It’s the same art a man like David Rockefeller can deploy to make himself seem like an old man who is genuinely puzzled by accusations that he exercises vast power.
To see what the Matrix is and how it operates, you need imagination. You need to use that imagination to understand what COULD BE but ISN’T. You need to be able to project how the truth could actually storm the bastions of planned ignorance and impel people to create startling new realities beyond the dross of what we have now.
To illustrate what I mean, I’ll make a temporary sharp right turn and tell you a story. I was part of it, in a parallel world of academia, in the 1980s. I was working as a “technical staff member” at Santa Monica College, in California. I tutored remedial students in the Learning Center, which was located on the top floor of the new library. I tutored English and I directed students to programmed materials they could use to improve their reading skills.
Through the kind help of a colleague, I had just sold two paintings to the College, and they were hanging there in the Learning Center.
One day, not long after the sale, I became aware of an obvious fact. How could I have not seen it before? There were MILES of dead empty wall space in the corridors and classrooms and offices of the College. In a flash, I had idea. I would create and occupy a new position, a new job for myself: art consultant. I would scout out and visit the studios of hundreds of artists in Los Angeles, unknown artists, and I would offer them that wall space, and the College would take their works on loan, and we would have an influx of something quite new on campus. A vacuum would be filled. An empty space would come alive.
We would have group shows. Openings every two months. The press would come and cover them. Residents of the city would show up. Celebrities would appear. The College would become internationally famous as a home for art. It would be a bonanza on many fronts. Most importantly, artists and art would take front and center. I would make sure of that.
Successful, the idea would spread to other colleges and schools who, likewise, had their own miles of empty wall space. There would be a flood of art.
In our own way, we would crack the Matrix lie of ONLY ONE DEAD SPACE. Paintings are worlds, are universes. Paintings would proliferate. People would begin to realize the implications of imagination, invention, improvisation, the making of new realities in every field of endeavor.
So I sketched out a business plan and approached a high official of the College. We had a meeting. I spoke about the kind of future we could engender.
After a few minutes, I saw two things. The face of a bureaucrat. And the face of a selfishly small man. A man who wanted to be The Man. A man who felt my plan would push him into the background away from his prestigious perch in the pecking order.
He told me the problem was INSURANCE. We would need coverage for all the paintings, and we wouldn’t be able to get it. I told him I could find hundreds of artists who would sign waivers releasing the College from any liability if the paintings were harmed or stolen. He shook his head. Not possible.
At that moment, as clear as I’m seeing this keyboard right now, I saw a parallel future in which the triumph of art and artists at the College and beyond was THERE, floating in space and time, filling in the vacuum, destroying the “limited hangout” in which the College existed, expanding vistas in all directions, bringing fierce new originality and courage and daring to a moribund institution…
And then I saw the reality this high official of the College was fronting for. The one he was devoted to.
And here is the kicker. Several months later, he made it his mission to BUY MANY MANY FRAMED REPRODUCTIONS OF WELL KNOWN PAINTINGS AND HANG THEM ON THE WALLS OF OFFICES ON CAMPUS.
That was his version of art. More importantly, it was his limited hangout, his way of saying, protectively, “See, we DO HAVE ART HERE. We are a progressive institution. You can’t criticize us or me. I’m in charge. I’ve done a wonderful thing. There was empty space, and now I’ve filled it…so move along.”
I hope you get the analogy to the main point of this article. You can take any fading institution under the sun and inject into it startling new truth and invention and recreate it as a tremendous and positive and wide-ranging force. And if that injection means the end of that institution as it was, because it was so harmful, so be it. You’ll make it entirely new and alive and free in a way it never was before. You’ll transform it. Or: you can go down with the ship.
So back to my original discussion about the media. I say this—partially as a boast and partially as simple fact. If I were the managing editor of the New York Times and I was given the corner office and free rein, I would have that paper back in the black in a year. I would have it roaring on all cylinders. I would have people fighting each other in the streets to grab the last copy off the newsstands. Every day. Journalism schools all over the country would close down in shame. Because we would be running stories that would crack the whole rotting edifice of cartel-control along many fronts, and we would be filling up the PLANNED VACUUM with something super-real.
All right. Now, read my intro to Dr. Starfield’s interview and then her words, and imagine this was above the fold on page one of the New York Times, on the first day of a all-out relentless campaign. You know, what they used to call, when the fairy tale was still promoted, JOURNALISM!
The American healthcare system, like clockwork, causes a mind-boggling number of deaths every year.
The figures have been known for ten years. The story was covered briefly when a landmark study surfaced, and then it sank like a stone.
The truth was inconvenient for many interests. That has not changed. “Medical coverage for all” is a banner that conceals ugly facts.
On July 26, 2000, the US medical community received a titanic shock to the system, when one of its most respected public-health experts, Dr. Barbara Starfield, revealed her findings on healthcare in America. Starfield was associated with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The Starfield study, “Is US health really the best in the world?”, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, came to the following conclusions:
Every year in the US there are:
12,000 deaths from unnecessary surgeries;
7,000 deaths from medication errors in hospitals;
20,000 deaths from other errors in hospitals;
80,000 deaths from infections acquired in hospitals;
106,000 deaths from FDA-approved correctly prescribed medicines.
The total of medically-caused deaths in the US every year is 225,000. 2.25 MILLION PEOPLE PER DECADE.
This makes the medical system the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer.
The Starfield study is the most disturbing revelation about modern healthcare in America ever published. The credentials of its author and the journal in which it appeared are, within the highest medical circles, impeccable.
On the heels of Starfield’s astonishing findings, media reporting was rather perfunctory, and it soon dwindled. No major newspaper or television network mounted an ongoing “Medicalgate” investigation. Neither the US Department of Justice nor federal health agencies undertook prolonged remedial action.
All in all, it seemed that those parties who could have taken effective steps to correct this situation preferred to ignore it.
On December 6-7, 2009, I interviewed Dr. Starfield by email.
What has been the level and tenor of the response to your findings, since 2000?
My papers on the benefits of primary care have been widely used, including in Congressional testimony and reports. However, the findings on the relatively poor health in the US have received almost no attention. The American public appears to have been hoodwinked into believing that more interventions lead to better health, and most people that I meet are completely unaware that the US does not have the ‘best health in the world’.
In the medical research community, have your medically-caused mortality statistics been debated, or have these figures been accepted, albeit with some degree of shame?
The findings have been accepted by those who study them. There has been only one detractor, a former medical school dean, who has received a lot of attention for claiming that the US health system is the best there is and we need more of it. He has a vested interest in medical schools and teaching hospitals (they are his constituency). They, of course, would like an even greater share of the pie than they now have, for training more specialists. (Of course, the problem is that we train specialists–at great public cost–who then do not practice up to their training–they spend half of their time doing work that should be done in primary care and don’t do it as well.)
Have health agencies of the federal government consulted with you on ways to mitigate the [devastating] effects of the US medical system?
Since the FDA approves every medical drug given to the American people, and certifies it as safe and effective, how can that agency remain calm about the fact that these medicines are causing 106,000 deaths per year?
Even though there will always be adverse events that cannot be anticipated, the fact is that more and more unsafe drugs are being approved for use. Many people attribute that to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is (for the past ten years or so) required to pay the FDA for reviews—which puts the FDA into an untenable position of working for the industry it is regulating. There is a large literature on this.
Aren’t your 2000 findings a severe indictment of the FDA and its standard practices?
They are an indictment of the US health care industry: insurance companies, specialty and disease-oriented medical academia, the pharmaceutical and device manufacturing industries, all of which contribute heavily to re-election campaigns of members of Congress. The problem is that we do not have a government that is free of influence of vested interests. Alas, [it] is a general problem of our society-which clearly unbalances democracy.
Can you offer an opinion about how the FDA can be so mortally wrong about so many drugs?
Yes, it cannot divest itself from vested interests. (Again, [there is] a large literature about this, mostly unrecognized by the people because the industry-supported media give it no attention.)
Would it be correct to say that, when your JAMA study was published in 2000, it caused a momentary stir and was thereafter ignored by the medical community and by pharmaceutical companies?
Are you sure it was a momentary stir? I still get at least one email a day asking for a reprint–ten years later! The problem is that its message is obscured by those that do not want any change in the US health care system.
Do medical schools in the US, and intern/residency programs in hospitals, offer significant “primary care” physician training and education?
NO. Some of the most prestigious medical teaching institutions do not even have family physician training programs [or] family medicine departments. The federal support for teaching institutions greatly favors specialist residencies, because it is calculated on the basis of hospital beds.. [Dr. Starfield has done extensive research showing that family doctors, who deliver primary care-as opposed to armies of specialists-produce better outcomes for patients.]
Are you aware of any systematic efforts, since your 2000 JAMA study was published, to remedy the main categories of medically caused deaths in the US?
No systematic efforts; however, there have been a lot of studies. Most of them indicate higher rates [of death] than I calculated.
What was your personal reaction when you reached the conclusion that the US medical system was the third leading cause of death in the US?
I had previously done studies on international comparisons and knew that there were serious deficits in the US health care system, most notably in lack of universal coverage and a very poor primary care infrastructure. So I wasn’t surprised.
Has anyone from the FDA, since 2000, contacted you about the statistical findings in your JAMA paper?
NO. Please remember that the problem is not only that some drugs are dangerous but that many drugs are overused or inappropriately used. The US public does not seem to recognize that inappropriate care is dangerous–more does not mean better. The problem is NOT mainly with the FDA but with population expectations.
… Some drugs are downright dangerous; they may be prescribed according to regulations but they are dangerous.
Concerning the national health plan before Congress–if the bill is passed, and it is business as usual after that, and medical care continues to be delivered in the same fashion, isn’t it logical to assume that the 225,000 deaths per year will rise?
Probably–but the balance is not clear. Certainly, those who are not insured now and will get help with financing will probably be marginally better off overall.
Did your 2000 JAMA study sail through peer review, or was there some opposition to publishing it?
It was rejected by the first journal that I sent it to, on the grounds that ‘it would not be interesting to readers’!
Do the 106,000 deaths from medical drugs only involve drugs prescribed to patients in hospitals, or does this statistic also cover people prescribed drugs who are not in-patients in hospitals?
I tried to include everything in my estimates. Since the commentary was written, many more dangerous drugs have been added to the marketplace.
106,000 people die as a result of CORRECTLY prescribed medicines. I believe that was your point in your 2000 study. Overuse of a drug or inappropriate use of a drug would not fall under the category of “correctly prescribed.” Therefore, people who die after “overuse” or “inappropriate use” would be IN ADDITION TO the 106,000 and would fall into another or other categories.
‘Appropriate’ means that it is not counter to regulations. That does not mean that the drugs do not have adverse effects.
This interview with Dr. Starfield reveals that, even when an author has unassailable credentials within the medical-research establishment, the findings can result in no changes made to the system.
Yes, many persons and organizations within the medical system contribute to the annual death totals of patients, and media silence and public ignorance are certainly major factors, but the FDA is the assigned gatekeeper, when it comes to the safety of medical drugs. The buck stops there. If those drugs the FDA is certifying as safe are killing, like clockwork, 106,000 people a year, the Agency must be held accountable. The American people must understand that.
As for the other 119,000 people killed every year as a result of hospital treatment, this horror has to be laid at the doors of those institutions. Further, to the degree that hospitals are regulated and financed by state and federal governments, the relevant health agencies assume culpability.
It is astounding, as well, that the US Department of Justice has failed to weigh in on Starfield’s findings. If 225,000 medically caused deaths per year is not a crime by the Dept. of Justice’s standards, then what is?
To my knowledge, not one person in America has been fired from a job or even censured as result of these medically caused deaths.
Dr. Starfield’s findings have been available for nine years. She has changed the perception of the medical landscape forever. In a half-sane nation, she would be accorded a degree of recognition that would, by comparison, make the considerable list of her awards pale. And significant and swift action would have been taken to punish the perpetrators of these crimes and reform the system from its foundations.
In these times, medical schools continue turning out a preponderance of specialists who then devote themselves to promoting the complexities of human illness and massive drug treatment. Whatever the shortcomings of family doctors, their tradition speaks to less treatment, more common sense, and a proper reliance on the immune systems of patients.
The pharmaceutical giants stand back and carve up the populace into “promising markets.” They seek new disease labels and new profits from more and more toxic drugs. They do whatever they can–legally or illegally–to influence doctors in their prescribing habits. Many drug studies which show negative results are buried. FDA panels are filled with doctors who have drug-company ties. Legislators are incessantly lobbied and supported with pharma campaign monies.
Nutrition, the cornerstone of good health, is ignored or devalued by most physicians. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to attack nutritional supplements, even though the overall safety record of these nutrients is excellent, whereas, once again, the medical drugs the FDA certifies as safe are killing 106,000 Americans per year.
Physicians are trained to pay exclusive homage to peer-reviewed published drug studies. These doctors unfailingly ignore the fact that, if medical drugs are killing a million Americans per decade, the studies on which those drugs are based must be fraudulent. In other words, the whole literature is suspect, unreliable, and impenetrable.
Yes, that’s right. By Dr. Starfield’s published figures, FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs kill over A MILLION Americans per decade.
Does that sound like a legitimate ongoing subject for journalism to you?
At its height, if I recall correctly, when I published this interview in 2009, Google entries ran to about 40,000. Other websites picked it up. I sent it to a well-placed CBS reporter. The overall major media response? ZERO.
You can take that as a reason to give up. Or you can press down harder on the gas pedal.
Jon Rappoport has worked as an independent investigative reporter since 1982. The LA Weekly nominated him for a Pulitzer Prize, for a interview he did with the president of El Salvador University, where the military had taken over the campus and was disappearing students and burning books. He has written for In These Times, Village Voice, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, CBS Healthwatch, Stern. He is the author of a new collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED, and the co-author, with Robert Scott Bell, of a new ten-hour audio seminar, VACCINES, ARMED AND DANGEROUS. His work can be found at www.nomorefakenews.com