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Concept.png Iatrogenesis 
(Medical concept)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Ancient Greek painting in a vase, showing a physician (iatros) bleeding a patient
Interest of• Ivan Illich
• Robert Mendelsohn
When the cure is worse than the illness.

Iatrogenesis is the causation of a disease, a harmful complication, or other ill effect by any medical activity, including diagnosis, intervention, error, or negligence.[1][2] First used in this sense in 1924,[3] the term was introduced to sociology in 1976 by Ivan Illich, alleging that industrialized societies impair quality of life by overmedicalizing life.[4] Iatrogenesis may thus include mental suffering via medical beliefs or a practitioner's statements.[5][6][7] 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.[8]

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2019, millions of patients are injured and 2.6 million people die each year as a result of non-compliance with safety regulations in health care[9].

Number of Cases

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2019, millions of patients are injured and 2.6 million people die each year in low- and middle-income countries as a result of non-compliance with safety regulations in health care. Around the world, the personal, social and economic harm caused by harm to patients amounts to many trillions of US dollars. According to the WHO Director General Dr. TA Gebreyesus, every minute in the world at least one person dies from harm in the provision of medical care[10].

The most serious consequences are caused by errors in diagnosis, in the prescription of medicines and their use. Medicinal errors alone cause an estimated US $42 billion annually in damage. Every year, non-observance of safety and hygiene rules during surgery causes complications in almost 25% of patients and leads to the death of one million patients during surgery or immediately after it[11].


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.[When?][12] The US numbers 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

A study 2016 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine calculated 251,000 deaths per year, equating to nearly 700 deaths a day, about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.[13]

Dr. Martin Makary, the leader of the study, said “Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require reporting of errors in the data it collects about deaths through billing codes, making it hard to see what’s going on at the national level.”

Frederick van Pelt, a doctor who works for The Chartis Group, a health care consultancy, said another element of harm that is often overlooked is the number of severe patient injuries resulting from medical error. "Some estimates would put this number at 40 times the death rate," van Pelt said,[14] which means 10 million severe injuries as a result of medical errors.


In Germany, only one third of all errors that occur in the regulation of medicines are the responsibility of the nursing staff, where confusion, for example, played a role here. In the other two thirds of cases, it is the doctors who are responsible, for example due to non-observance of contraindications or negative interactions. According to calculations, 57,000 people die at Internal Medicine stations every year due to medical drugs. Of these, 28,000 deaths are avoidable[15].

“The death blow to FDA's safety function was AZT. After that, any potentially deadly disease became an excuse for curtailing clinical trials. Death by medication was normalized as an inherent part of progress.”
Celia Farber (10 September 2021)  [16]


Many of the responses to Covid-19 were iatrogenic.

Regardless of what one thinks of the actual existence, origins or severity of Covid-19, it is clear the early treatments methods caused severe damage. The treatment protocols, like in Italy in March 2020, demanded hospitals use a mix of strong antibiotics and mechanical ventilators. Even in routine circumstances, people put on respirators have a high risk severe complications or dying[17]. The heavy-duty antibiotics, in themselves severely weakening patients, were even more counterproductive in a hospital environment where antibiotic-resistant bacteria were common[18].

  • The closing of hospitals led to delayed or cancelled medical treatment for other problems like cancer, heart disease,surgical procedures and many others [19].
  • General societal health and well-being is neglected.
  • The enforced isolation of elderly people, stated as a measure protect them, led to widespread depression and loss of will to live[20].
  • The general societal climate of fear has caused widespread psychological sufferings like depression,suicidal thoughts[21], obsessive-compulsive behavior like excessive hand-washing[22] or other hygiene measures, self-isolation or needless fear of death.
  • The enforced mask-wearing will increase the risk of number[23] of illnesses, from bacterial infections[24], rotten teeth ('mask mouth'), carbon dioxide poisoning[25][26][27], to increased long term health risks[citation needed].
  • The insufficiently tested vaccines being pushed on people 2021 out are likely to cause an unknown amount of health damage.


Full article: Vaccines

A 1977 study published in The Lancet stated that the risks of the whole-cell pertussis jab (used in the DTP vaccine) exceeded the risks associated with wild pertussis.[28]

In 1983 an NIH-funded UCLA study found that Wyeth's DTP vaccine was killing or causing severe brain injury, including seizures and death, in 1 in every 300 vaccinated children.[29] The resultant lawsuits caused the collapse of insurance markets for vaccines and threatened to bankrupt the industry. Wyeth—now Pfizer—claimed to be losing $20 in downstream liability for every dollar it earned on vaccine sales, and induced Congress to pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986 shielding vaccine makers from liability.[30]

Ivan Illich: The Expropriation of Health

The 20th-century social critic Ivan Illich broadened the concept of medical iatrogenesis in his 1974 book Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health[31] by defining it at three levels.

  • 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.[32]
  • 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."[33]


Related Quotation

Michael Yeadon“Government’s response to emergencies is guided by the scientific group who sit together under the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or SAGE. So they should provide scientific advice to the government about what’s appropriate to do. SAGE has got several things wrong, and that has led to advice that’s inappropriate and – uh, not only has had horrible economic effects, but has had continuing medical effects in that people are no longer being treated properly.”Michael YeadonNovember 2020


  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iatrogenic
  2. 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)
  3. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iatrogenic
  4. name=":1">"iatrogenesis", A Dictionary of Sociology, Encyclopedia.com. updated 31 May 2020.
  5. https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/iatrogenesis
  6. David Kuhl, What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002), p 55.
  7. 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.
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4561509
  9. https://www.who.int/ru/news-room/detail/13-09-2019-who-calls-for-urgent-action-to-reduce-patient-harm-in-healthcare
  10. https://www.who.int/ru/news-room/detail/13-09-2019-who-calls-for-urgent-action-to-reduce-patient-harm-in-healthcare
  11. https://www.who.int/ru/news-room/detail/13-09-2019-who-calls-for-urgent-action-to-reduce-patient-harm-in-healthcare
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20101224104818/http://www.avaresearch.com/ava-main-website/files/20100401061256.pdf?page=files%2F20100401061256.pdf
  13. http://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2139
  14. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/03/researchers-medical-errors-now-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-united-states/
  15. Krisengebiet Krankenhaus. In: Stern. Nr. 36, 2010, S. 34 ff.
  16. The Real Anthony Fauci
  17. https://www.evms.edu/covid-19/covid_care_for_clinicians/
  18. https://vimeo.com/404203138
  19. https://collateralglobal.org/physical-health
  20. https://collateralglobal.org/dementia
  21. https://collateralglobal.org/suicide
  22. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/covid-19-worsens-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-but-therapy-offers-coping-skills1/
  23. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-the-community-during-home-care-and-in-healthcare-settings-in-the-context-of-the-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)-outbreak
  24. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577
  25. https://corona-transition.org/zweites-kind-wegen-maskentragen-gestorben
  26. https://www.thatsmags.com/china/post/31100/student-deaths-lead-schools-to-adjust-rules-on-masks-while-exercising
  27. https://swprs.org/face-masks-evidence/
  28. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(77)91028-5
  29. http://scihub.se/10.1097/00006454-198301000-00003
  30. http://congress.gov/bill/99th-congress/house-bill/5546
  31. Ivan Illich Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health isbn=0-7145-1096-3 https://archive.org/details/medicalnemesisex00illirich
  32. Pearce, Wright (2003). "Obituary: Ivan Illich". The Lancet. 361 (9352): 185 |doi=10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12233-7
  33. Barnet, Robert (2003). "Ivan Illich and the Nemesis of Medicine". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 6 (3): 273–286 |doi=10.1023/a:1025991708888
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