What is Iatrogenic Disease?


Iatrogenic disease (medicine or medical procedure induced harm) stems from medical experimentation, treatment or negligence. The spread of iatrogenic disease is frightening. A study of 2000 patients in Australia found an incidence of 81.1%. In the USA the yearly deaths due to medical negligence/ errors was estimated by JAMA to be 250,000 in the year 2011. Iatrogenic diseases can be caused by any system of medicine though they are more pronounced with the dominant system. 

What can be done? The first thing would be to realize that not just errors but wrong perceptions of disease can and does lead to iatrogenic harm. A physician or a medical system should be meticulous in understanding health, the disruptions that lead to disease, and the steps that lead to restoration of health in the safest possible way. It is also very important for the physician to understand the pros and cons of his system and the limitations of the remedies at her/his command.

Not understanding health and the dynamics of disease are dangerous, for then every intervention however well intentioned, can lead to iatrogenesis. Health is a balance between the body and the environment. The body and environment are naturally geared towards health. When the environment is tampered with, the body is put under stress and after a threshold is reached, disease occurs as the body attempts to heal. The body reacts in several ways to stress which results in symptoms that the physician ought to understand. There are symptoms that indicate that the body is coping, and there are symptoms that indicate that the body is failing. The wise physician will know what to leave alone and when to intervene. The present practice of setting standards for everything (BP/cholesterol etc) defies logic.

Acute diseases are the body's coping mechanism. Unjust intervention leads to chronic disease. Chronic diseases need a doctor to manifest. The body is its own doctor. The foremost duty of a medical system is to understand how the body heals itself. Otherwise it becomes a burden and a threat to health. Today 74% of all deaths globally are due to chronic disease. This indicates how medicine has failed us.

It is important to know that each individual is different. The difference lies in body type, family inheritance, lifestyle pattern, upbringing, environment etc. Having a set system for every individual is convenient for the physician but deadly for the subject. 

Disease is dynamic and so is the process of cure. The progress of disease is from outward to within while the progress of cure is from within to the surface. While in the case of disease, the disruption proceeds from the skin to internal organs, the cure sees a progress from the organs to the skin, hair and nails. There is a clear relation between the body and mind. Disease as it progresses in matter, also affects the psyche and the subject suffers from growing stress, fears and phobias. As the cure progresses the mental state too improves and the subject proceeds towards relaxation and balance.

Freedom from iatrogenic consequences needs awareness at all levels and interaction between the physician and the sick. The physician should be transparent and the patient should be aware enough to report either progress or decline such that the physician can proceed towards total relief in its true sense and not mere suppression or destruction of symptoms.