People tend to think of themselves as rational thinking organisms. Humans have survived the evolutionary lottery because we have learned to avoid things that can actually snuff us out; cliffs that drop off suddenly, boiling lava fields and the like. In a recent survey, Americans were asked what they were afraid of. The usual suspects made the list; murder, drowning and plane crashes. We are afraid of animals that appear to be vicious and afraid of events that are not too likely to happen to us.
In the US, only one person a year is actually killed by a shark, yet nearly 40% of Americans are afraid of sharks. You are much more likely to be killed in a car accident than a plane accident, yet twice as many people admit to a fear of dying in a ball of flames and smoke in the sky as compared to dying in their cars. More people fear spiders and wasps than they do car accidents, yet far fewer die from a bite or sting, in fact, very few at all die in the US from such things. Why then are we afraid of what we are afraid of?
The most feared thing in America, according to one survey is the fear of snakes. Yes, I just shuddered at the thought of a snake, it is my biggest, most irrational fear. Yet only about 5 deaths occur each year in the US as a result of a poisonous snake bite. What is it about snakes that people fear? Is it that death by snake bite, shark bite, spiders, plane crashes or even murder as thought of as violent and painful? Is it in our nature to fear the unknown and think the worst of things that appear to be evil or deadly?
There are many things that exponentially kill more Americans each year than these most feared things; Heart disease, for example, kills more than a million people each year. Diabetes and cancers do as well. But none of these even made the list of what makes us scared. There is one item of interest did make the list, however, and it is a fear that 10% of Americans are afraid of dying from, Medical Malpractice.
Medical Malpractice kills an estimated 400,000 people in America each year, yet 3 times as many people are more afraid of being murdered when they are 36 times more likely to be killed on the operating table or due to the negligence of their doctors than dying a murderous death. Why is there such a disparity in these two fears?
Americans are told to trust their medical professionals, we are taught at a young age that doctors are to be respected above most other professionals and that they can do no wrong. When we visit with our doctors we are trusting in their expertise when it comes to our bodies and our health. There is a culture in our society that demonizes those who sue for negligence from medical malpractice when it is the cause of so many unnecessary deaths among our society. Persons who seek the negligent to be held accountable are told they are ‘gold-diggers’ or trying to get ‘money for nothing’. We are desensitized to the devastation that comes from a medical malpractice injury or death.
There is no doubt that practicing medicine is a science and at times not an exact science. The definition of malpractice, however, is that the standard of care recognized by the medical profession was not adhered to and as a result someone was injured or even killed. Medical malpractice cases are difficult to bring because of the special requirements and injured person or a dead person’s family must follow. Successful litigation of a malpractice claim requires the skills of a highly trained personal injury attorney.
Humans are wired to avoid things that risk our existence, and for thousands of years our species did have to contend with the deadly things Mother Nature controls. Our internal and sometimes irrational survival settings make us afraid of what cannot, in the modern world, hurt us. We need to have a reasonable fear of what does hurt us and act accordingly.