Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fear of flying?

The hidden tragedy

By David Baker
Posted Wednesday June 3, 2009

The lost of life in the apparent crash of an Air France jet plane into the Atlantic Ocean this week is an immense tragedy for every one of the victims' families and friends, a loss which for them will be made even more unbearable if, as seems likely, a cause is never found.

But fatal airliner crashes are such big stories partly because they happen so infrequently. Southwest Airlines , for example, has not had a single passenger fatality in the 38 years it has been flying. Thirty five other U.S. and Canadian airlines also have had no fatalities from when they began flying, or since 1970 for those already operating that year.

But for hospitals, it is a very different story. An estimated 44,000 people die in the U.S. each year as a result of preventable medical errors. And that's the low end of the range.

That's 120 deaths a day. Every day, year after year. And its not getting any better.

It means that every two days more people die from avoidable medical mistakes than lost their lives in that plane that never made it to Paris.