Iatrogenesis is the causation of a disease, a harmful complication, or other ill effect by any medical activity, including diagnosis, intervention, error, or negligence. First used in this sense in 1924, the term was introduced to sociology in 1976 by Ivan Illich, alleging that industrialized societies impair quality of life by overmedicalizing life. Iatrogenesis may thus include mental suffering via medical beliefs or a practitioner's statements. Some iatrogenic events are obvious, like amputation of the wrong limb, whereas others, like drug interactions, can evade recognition. In a 2013 estimate, about 20 million negative effects from treatment had occurred globally. In 2013, an estimated 142,000 persons died from adverse effects of medical treatment, up from an estimated 94,000 in 1990.
Risk associated with medical interventionsEdit
- Adverse effects of prescription drugs
- Overuse of drugs (causing, for example, antibiotic resistance in bacteria)
- Prescription drug interaction
Causes and consequencesEdit
Medical error and negligenceEdit
Iatrogenic conditions need not result from medical errors, such as mistakes made in surgery, or the prescription or dispensing of the wrong therapy, such as a drug. In fact, intrinsic and sometimes adverse effects of a medical treatment are iatrogenic. For example, radiation therapy and chemotherapy — necessarily aggressive for therapeutic effect – frequently produce such iatrogenic effects as hair loss, hemolytic anemia, diabetes insipidus, vomiting, nausea, brain damage, lymphedema, infertility, etc. The loss of function resulting from the required removal of a diseased organ is iatrogenic, as in the case of diabetes consequential to the removal of all or part of the pancreas.
The incidence of iatrogenesis may be misleading in some cases. For example, a ruptured aortic aneurysm is fatal in most cases; the survival rate for treatment of a ruptured aortic aneurysm is under 25%. Patients who die during or after an operation will still be considered iatrogenic deaths, but the procedure itself remains a better bet than the 100% probability of death if left untreated.
A very common iatrogenic effect is caused by drug interaction, i.e., when pharmacotherapists fail to check for all medications a patient is taking and prescribe new ones that interact agonistically or antagonistically (thereby potentiating or attenuating the intended therapeutic effect). Such situations can cause significant morbidity and mortality. Adverse reactions, such as allergic reactions to drugs, even when unexpected by pharmacotherapists, are also classified as iatrogenic.
Certain drugs are toxic in their own right in therapeutic doses because of their mechanism of action. Alkylating antineoplastic agents, for example, cause DNA damage, which is more harmful to cancer cells than regular cells. However, alkylation causes severe side-effects and is actually carcinogenic in its own right, with potential to lead to the development of secondary tumors. In a similar manner, arsenic-based medications like melarsoprol, used to treat trypanosomiasis, can cause arsenic poisoning.
Adverse effects can appear mechanically. The design of some surgical instruments may be decades old, hence certain adverse effects (such as tissue trauma) may never have been properly characterized.
In psychiatry, iatrogenesis can occur due to misdiagnosis (including diagnosis with a false condition, as was the case of hystero-epilepsy). An example of a partially iatrogenic condition due to common misdiagnosis is bipolar disorder, especially in pediatric patients. Other conditions such as somatoform disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome are theorized to have significant sociocultural and iatrogenic components. Posttraumatic stress disorder is hypothesized to be prone to iatrogenic complications based on treatment modality. Even use of antipsychotic drugs leads to loss of brain mass.
The psychiatric treatment of some conditions and populations, such as substance abuse are regarded as carrying risks for iatrogenesis. At the other end of the spectrum, dissociative identity disorder is considered by a minority of theorists to be a wholly iatrogenic disorder with the bulk of diagnoses arising from a tiny fraction of practitioners.
The degree of association of any particular condition with iatrogenesis is unclear and in some cases controversial. The over-diagnosis of psychiatric conditions (with the assignment of mental illness terminology) may relate primarily to clinician dependence on subjective criteria. The assignment of pathological nomenclature is rarely a benign process and can easily rise[clarification needed] to the level of emotional iatrogenesis, especially when no alternatives outside of the diagnostic naming process have been considered. Many former patients come to the conclusion that their difficulties are largely the result of the power relationships inherent in psychiatric treatment, which has led to the rise of the anti-psychiatry movement.
Meessen et al. used the term "iatrogenic poverty" to describe impoverishment induced by medical care. Impoverishment is described for households exposed to catastrophic health expenditure or to hardship financing. Every year, worldwide, over 100,000 households fall into poverty due to health care expenses. A study reported that in the United States in 2001, illness and medical debt caused half of all personal bankruptcies. Especially in countries in economic transition, the willingness to pay for health care is increasing, and the supply side does not stay behind and develops very fast. But the regulatory and protective capacity in those countries is often lagging behind. Patients easily fall into a vicious cycle of illness, ineffective therapies, consumption of savings, indebtedness, sale of productive assets, and eventually poverty.
Social and cultural iatrogenesisEdit
- First, clinical iatrogenesis is the injury done to patients by ineffective, unsafe, and erroneous treatments as described above. In this regard, he described the need for evidence-based medicine 20 years before the term was coined.
- Second, at another level social iatrogenesis is the medicalization of life in which medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device companies have a vested interest in sponsoring sickness by creating unrealistic health demands that require more treatments or treating non-diseases that are part of the normal human experience, such as age-related declines. In this way, aspects of medical practice and medical industries can produce social harm in which society members ultimately become less healthy or excessively dependent on institutional care. He argued that medical education of physicians contributes to medicalization of society because they are trained predominantly for diagnosing and treating illness, therefore they focus on disease rather than on health. Iatrogenic poverty (above) can be considered a specific manifestation of social iatrogenesis.
- Third, cultural iatrogenesis refers to the destruction of traditional ways of dealing with, and making sense of, death, suffering, and sickness. In this way the medicalization of life leads to cultural harm as society members lose their autonomous coping skills. It is worth noting that in these critiques "Illich does not reject all benefits of modern society but rejects those that involve unwarranted dependency and exploitation."
Globally it is estimated that 142,000 people died in 2013 from adverse effects of medical treatment, an increase of 51 percent from 94,000 in 1990. In the United States, estimated deaths per year include: 
- 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery
- 7,000 due to medication errors in hospitals
- 20,000 due to other errors in hospitals
- 80,000 due to nosocomial infections in hospitals
- 106,000 due to non-error, negative effects of drugs
Based on these figures, iatrogenesis may cause as many as 225,000 deaths per year in the United States (excluding recognizable error). An earlier Institute of Medicine report estimated 230,000 to 284,000 iatrogenic deaths annually.
Since at least the time of Hippocrates, people have recognized the potentially damaging effects of medical intervention. "First do no harm" (primum non nocere) is a primary Hippocratic mandate in modern medical ethics. Iatrogenic illness or death caused purposefully or by avoidable error or negligence on the healer's part became a punishable offense in many civilizations.
The transfer of pathogens from the autopsy room to maternity patients, leading to shocking historical mortality rates of puerperal fever (also known as "childbed fever") at maternity institutions in the 19th century, was a major iatrogenic catastrophe of the era. The infection mechanism was first identified by Ignaz Semmelweis.
With the development of scientific medicine in the 20th century, it could be expected that iatrogenic illness or death might be more easily avoided. Antiseptics, anesthesia, antibiotics, better surgical techniques, evidence-based protocols and best practices continue to be developed to decrease iatrogenic side effects and mortality.
- Adverse drug reaction
- Cascade effect
- Classification of Pharmaco-Therapeutic Referrals
- Fatal Care: Survive in the U.S. Health System
- Hospital-acquired infection
- Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine
- List of medicine contamination incidents
- Medical malpractice
- Patient safety
- Pressure ulcer
- Quaternary prevention
- Risk–benefit ratio
- Sentinel event
- "Iatrogenic", Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, Inc., accessed 27 Jun 2020.
- "John O. Barr & Timothy L. Kauffman, "Iatrogenesis in older adults", in Timothy L. Kauffman, Ron Scott, John O. Barr & Michael L. Moran, eds., A Comprehensive Guide to Geriatric Rehabilitation, 3rd edn. (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2014)". doi:10.1016/B978-0-7020-4588-2.00056-5. Cite journal requires
- "Intervention Mistakes and How to Avoid Them". Addiction Helper. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
- "iatrogenesis", A Dictionary of Sociology, Encyclopedia.com. updated 31 May 2020.
- David Kuhl, What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002), p 55.
- Paul F. Lazarsfeld, "Working with Merton", in Lewis A. Cosar, ed., The Idea of Social Structure: Papers in Honor of Robert K. Merton (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012 / New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), indexing "iatrogenesis", esp. pp 328–329.
- Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, Collaborators (22 August 2015). "Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". Lancet. 386 (9995): 743–800. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(15)60692-4. PMC 4561509. PMID 26063472.
- GBD 2013 Mortality and Causes of Death, Collaborators (17 December 2014). "Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". Lancet. 385 (9963): 117–71. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61682-2. PMC 4340604. PMID 25530442.
- Finland M (1979). "Emergence of antibiotic resistance in hospitals, 1935–1975". Rev. Infect. Dis. 1 (1): 4–22. doi:10.1093/clinids/1.1.4. PMID 45521.
- Llor, Carl; Bjerrum, Lars (16 October 2014). "Antimicrobial resistance: risk associated with antibiotic overuse and initiatives to reduce the problem". Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety. SAGE Publicatio. 5 (6): 229–241. doi:10.1177/2042098614554919. ISSN 2042-0986. PMC 4232501. PMID 25436105.
- Spanos, Nicholas P. (1996). Multiple Identities & False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective. American Psychological Association (APA). ISBN 1-55798-340-2.
- Pruett Jr, John R.; Luby, Joan L. (2004). "Recent Advances in Prepubertal Mood Disorders: Phenomenology and Treatment". Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 17 (1): 31–36. doi:10.1097/00001504-200401000-00006. S2CID 145069868. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
- Abbey, S.E. (1993). "Somatization, illness attribution and the sociocultural psychiatry of chronic fatigue syndrome". Ciba Found Symp. Novartis Foundation Symposia. 173: 238–52. doi:10.1002/9780470514382.ch14. ISBN 9780470514382. PMID 8491101.
- Boscarino, JA (2004). "Evaluation of the Iatrogenic Effects of Studying Persons Recently Exposed to a Mass Urban Disaster" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008. Cite journal requires
- Ho, Beng-Choon; Andreasen, Nancy C.; Ziebell, Steven; Pierson, Ronald; Magnotta, Vincent (February 2011). "Long-term Antipsychotic Treatment and Brain Volumes". Archives of General Psychiatry. 68 (2): 128–137. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.199. ISSN 0003-990X. PMC 3476840. PMID 21300943.
- Donald C. Goff, M. D. (4 May 2011). "Antipsychotics and the Shrinking Brain". Psychiatric Times. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
- Moos, R.H. (2005). "Iatrogenic effects of psychosocial interventions for substance use disorders: prevalence, predictors, prevention". Addiction. 100 (5): 595–604. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01073.x. PMID 15847616.
- Braun, B.G. (1989). "Iatrophilia and Iatrophobia in the diagnosis and treatment of MPD (Morose Parasitic Dynamism)". Dissociation. 2 (2): 43, 161–2, 165–6, 171–2 passim. hdl:1794/1425.
- Meessen, B.; Zhenzhong, Z.; Van Damme, W.; Devadasan, N.; Criel, B.; Bloom, G. (2003). "Iatrogenic poverty". Tropical Medicine & International Health. 8 (7): 581–4. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3156.2003.01081.x. PMID 12828538.
- Xu; Evans, DB; Carrin, G; Aguilar-Rivera, AM; Musgrove, P; Evans, T; et al. (2007). "Protecting Households from Catastrophic Health Spending". Health Affairs. 26 (4): 972–83. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.26.4.972. PMID 17630440.
- Kruk; Goldmann, E.; Galea, S.; et al. (2009). "Borrowing And Selling To Pay For Health Care in Low- And Middle-Income Countries" (PDF). Health Affairs. 28 (4): 10056–66. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.28.4.1056. hdl:2027.42/63445. PMID 19597204.
- "Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds". 3 February 2005.
- Illich, Ivan (1974). Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. London: Calder & Boyars. ISBN 0-7145-1096-3.
- Pearce, Wright (2003). "Obituary: Ivan Illich". The Lancet. 361 (9352): 185. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12233-7. S2CID 6678368.
- Barnet, Robert (2003). "Ivan Illich and the Nemesis of Medicine". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 6 (3): 273–286. doi:10.1023/a:1025991708888. PMID 14620464. S2CID 151359050.
- Starfield B (July 2000). "Is US health really the best in the world?" (PDF). JAMA. 284 (4): 483–5. doi:10.1001/jama.284.4.483. PMID 10904513. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
- Leape L (May 1992). "Unnecessary Surgery". Annual Review of Public Health. 13: 363–383. doi:10.1146/annurev.pu.13.050192.002051. PMID 1599594.
- Phillips DP, Christenfeld N, Glynn LM (February 1998). "Increase in US medication-error deaths between 1983 and 1993". Lancet. 351 (9103): 643–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(98)24009-8. PMID 9500322. S2CID 10122133.
- Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN (April 1998). "Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies". JAMA. 279 (15): 1200–5. doi:10.1001/jama.279.15.1200. PMID 9555760.
- Jason A Wolf; Heather Hanson; Mark J Moir; Len Friedman; Grant T Savage, eds. (12 July 2011). Organization Development in Healthcare: Conversations on Research and Strategies. Advances in Health Care Management Series #10. Emerald Group Pub. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-85724-709-4.
- Hanninen, O; Farago, M.; Monos, E. (1983). "Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, the prophet of bacteriology". Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 4 (5): 367–370. doi:10.1017/S0195941700059762. JSTOR 30142576. PMID 6354955.