Surgeons at work.

Are Doctors More Dangerous Than Gun Owners?

An email about gun deaths versus doctor-related deaths has been around in various forms since at least 2004. Minor details vary, but they all went something like this:

Scary Doctor Facts
This is really something to think about:
A. The number of physicians in the US is 700,000
B. Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year is 120,000
C. Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171 (US Dept of Health & Human
Then think about this:
A. The number of gun owners in the US is 80,000,000.
B. The number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) is 1,500.
C. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is .0000188.
Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than
gun owners.
Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors
before this gets out of hand.
(As a public health measure I have withheld the statistics on lawyers for
fear that the shock could cause people to seek medical attention.)

This email and post was obviously originally the humorous creation of a gun enthusiast. We don’t know exactly when it was written, but not all of the statistics are accurate.

As of 2016, the Federation of State Medical Boards found that there were 953,695 allopathic and osteopathic doctors in the United States — up 12 percent from 2010. A CNBC story from 2018 estimated the number of accidental medical deaths between 250,000 and a jaw-dropping 440,000. However, those numbers are wide-ranging and getting everybody to agree with statistics regarding deaths caused by doctors is a little more difficult.  A breakdown of those numbers includes unnecessary surgeries, medication errors , miscommunications, infections in hospitals, and more.

According to the National Rifle Association’s 2010 Fact Sheet, there were between 70 and 80 million gun owners tallied in the United States at that time.  The NRA added that there are are close to 300 million privately owned firearms in the United States with hand guns counting for nearly 100 million, and that somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of American households have firearms. Also according to the National Rifle Association, there were 776 accidental deaths from firearms in 2000, a lower figure than in the email.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, created after Arizona lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords was shot and badly wounded in 2011 (six people were murdered and twelve others injured in the mass shooting rampage), estimates that more than a hundred Americans are killed by guns every day, but that number encompasses deliberate as well as accidental deaths.

The premise of the email and post is weak and, as we said, mostly aimed toward humor.  Comparing doctor deaths to accidental firearm deaths is meaningless, especially because doctors are dealing with people who are sick in the first place, some of whom are at high risk for death or have gone through high-risk medical procedures.

Editor’s note, 9/18/2019: This story has been reformatted and rewritten since it was originally published. You can find the original version of the story here. –bb