Naturopathic Medicine

The Third Leading Cause of Death in the United States Is Probably Not What You Think

Alrighty, so we have talked about what naturopathic medicine is and a walked through the six principles that guide the healing philosophy of NDs, and now you are probably wondering, so what? Why should you care about their philosophy and approach to healing? I know I would be wondering these things.

I certainly do not speak for all naturopathic physicians, but personally, I think studying our philosophy is essential for understanding and embracing what makes our professional special, and for becoming the positive change our current healthcare system needs.

In the United States, the top three causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and…medical error. That’s right, our healthcare system is killing more people in the United States each year than lung diseases, neurological conditions, complications from diabetes, and even gun violence.

This study published in BMJ reports that their estimate of roughly 250,000 deaths related to medical error might actually be too low of an estimate. The researchers explain that this is due to the fact that medical error is not explicitly written on death certificates here in the United States. Instead, we tend to stick with labeling the cause of death based upon ICD insurance billing codes, which currently does not list medical error (If you’re curious to know how medical error is defined, check out the BMJ article). Therefore, the researchers of this study estimate the actual number of deaths in the United States resulting from medical error could be as high as 400,000 per year! That is staggering!

According to this JAMA article, The United States spend almost double on healthcare compared to other high-income countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark) yet, we have the lowest life-expectancy and the highest rates of infant mortality (figures below).  Add that to the fact that our medical error is so high that it is the third leading cause of death within our own country, and you start to wonder how and why are medical system has gotten so broken.

Health Spending as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product
Health Spending as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product


Population Health
Population Health
NA indicates not applicable. CHE indicates Switzerland; NLD, the Netherlands

In my opinion, our healthcare system is failing its people. I do not mean to blame any one person or school of thought regarding medicine, but feel this is a systematic issue. However, I believe in the power of many microcosmic changes combining to create macroscopic effects. Therefore, I believe that studying, understanding, embracing, and living the philosophy of naturopathic medicine is essential for me as a future ND. I do not want to cause more harm in my clients than their bodies are currently experiencing from their illnesses. I want to be a support system through which they can finally heal. I believe that the principles of naturopathic medicine and the Therapeutic Order can serve as a guide to minimize adverse medical events and errors from transpiring in future clients.

I care about and believe in the philosophy of naturopathic medicine because I care about and believe in your body’s ability to heal through the least invasive route possible for your individual body and unique condition. Better yet, by creating the conditions for health, and eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, I believe that we can prevent a significant number of diseases, which would reduce the number of people needing to seek medical treatment for disease management, which in turn could reduce the number of deaths related to medical error.

Close-up of Tree Against Sky

How are you feeling after reading this? Are you at all surprised? Do you now understand why I spent my first two posts diving into the philosophy of naturopathic medicine? I would really love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the matter, so please comment below 🙂




Disclaimer: I am a naturopathic medical student, not a licensed physician. The opinions expressed are my own, and do not reflect the opinions of the entire naturopathic doctor community. Nothing on my blog is intended to be taken as medical advice. Always consult a licensed physician before making any lifestyle or dietary changes.


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