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Sepsis myths create 'unhealthy climate of fear', say experts

The public is being misled by scare stories about sepsis, say experts, warning that hype and misunderstandings about the so-called “hidden killer” have generated “an unhealthy climate of fear and retribution” in the UK and the US.

Prof Mervyn Singer and colleagues from the Bloomsbury Institute of Intensive Care Medicine at University College London argue that the numbers are not that high and sepsis is not always preventable. “Many other non-contextualised or fictitious claims regularly fill media pages and airwaves,” they say in their letter to the Lancet, calling for a rethink of the approach to sepsis risk.

The truth, they say, is that sepsis kills a very small proportion of patients – and those who die are overwhelmingly very elderly or frail. Their deaths are not always preventable because their chances of surviving their illness were not high to begin with. And the drive to ensure all patients suspected of sepsis get antibiotics within an hour is unhelpful and leading to unjust criticism of doctors and litigation against hospitals.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Sepsis can be life-threatening and it is absolutely right the NHS has focused on improving awareness, diagnosis and treatment of this syndrome. While the number of people identified as at risk of sepsis has increased, mortality rates are falling.”

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Source: The Guardian, 25 October 2019


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