30-day mortality standard hinders effective medicine

We must consider whether pain or success rates are more important in 30-day standard.

Anant Naik

For quite some time now, we’ve been critical about many of the government’s health care policies. Over the past few days, we’ve seen a wave of criticism appear over the health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act. However, few people have focused on general issues with the health care system that have been around for a very long time.

Doctors often use a 30-day mortality standard to determine whether medical procedures, mostly surgeries, are successful. If a patient dies in the 30-day post-surgery period, the surgery is considered a failure. In fact, many medical institutions and doctors use this as a statistic to evaluate their success as medical professionals in general.

This is an insufficient standard for surgeries because it cultivates the attitude that doctors should celebrate a successful surgery only if the patient survives for 30 days — effectively disregarding any pain and suffering the patient may feel.

This poses an ethical question: Is it better for a patient to live comfortably for some shorter period or to live in pain to satisfy the 30-day success standard?

Oftentimes, doctors become so concerned about their success rates that they refuse to operate on certain patients who are in critical conditions.

Written in 1964, the current Hippocratic Oath states, “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being.”

It’s problematic that the 30-day standard is used as a legitimate tool to measure the success of medical professionals. Health care policies and standards ought to help patients. This one definitely doesn’t.