Physicians fight to retract BMJ medical error study — Here's why

Shyam Sabat, MD, and Virginia Hall, MD, are leading the physician effort to retract the BMJ study claiming medical error is the "third leading cause of death in the United States," according to Medscape.

Dr. Sabot serves as a neuroradiology associate professor and Dr. Hall serves as an obstetrics and gynecology associate professor at Hershey-based Penn State College of Medicine. Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins researchers conducted the BMJ study.

Here are six takeaways:

1. Drs. Sabot and Hall created an online campaign for retraction support on, which already has 176 supporters.

2. The two physicians wrote a blog post, arguing the BMJ study represents "a shoddy piece of scientific and statistical work which cannot stand the close scrutiny of peer physician researchers and professional statisticians," according to Medscape.

3. Drs. Sabot and Hall claim the study is not a meta-analysis, but rather mainly derived from one 2004 Healthgrades study. They argue the other three studies used offer too minuscule a patient base to be compared in league with the 37 million-patient Healthgrades study.

4. The physicians also argued the study authors used Medicare mortality rates for all U.S. inpatient admissions, without correction, which skews toward an older and sicker population.

5. Those opposed to the retraction argue it is unfair for Drs. Sabot and Hall to use the word "meta-analysis," as the Johns Hopkins study authors did not use the term in the paper. Instead, the study authors noted it was a "less formal literature review," according to Medscape. This phrasing implies less statistical heftiness.

6. BMJ commented they will not publish a retraction.

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