What is Iatrogenesis?

When surgery or medical treatment causes a secondary illness as a result of medical intervention, the result is referred to as iatrogenesis.

There is always a fear at the back of our minds when attending a surgical procedure that something may go wrong. What we refer to as an iatrogenic event is when a complication occurs as a result of treatment, which worsens an existing medical condition.

However, these types of iatrogenic events are hardly intentional. Most of them are due to accidents or negligence. The word “Iatrogenic” has Greek roots and translates to “as a result of a doctor”; the meaning simplifies the term iatrogenesis. An iatrogenic event can occur for a number of reasons and is largely due to medical oversight. This type of accident can develop at the hospital or during a routine healthcare visit. As a result, an iatrogenic event can lead to emotional, physical or mental distress and, in some instances, even death.

How can an Iatrogenic event occur?

Several examples of iatrogenic events include:

  • A surgical/ iatrogenic infection arises when the doctor handles a previous patient and fails to wash his or her hands. As a result, the doctor can infect the patient they are handling next.
  • Failed surgery/ iatrogenic injury happens when the wrong organ or limb is removed during surgery. For example, the doctor can surgically remove the wrong kidney or replace the healthy knee.
  • Prescription medication/ iatrogenic effects happen when the medications prescribed interact abnormally. As a result, an adverse reaction can be expected.
  • Psychological therapy gone wrong/ iatrogenic illness can worsen the state of a person’s mind.

A new medical condition can develop due to improper medical care; we also refer to this as an iatrogenic event. Most medical practitioners take necessary precautions to avoid medical errors. However, these accidents can happen spontaneously. To avoid an iatrogenic event, it helps to take a close relative to all medical appointments and exams to ensure an error does not occur.

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