Unfair focus on the mortality rate

With former President Clinton’s successful CABG, this NY Times article cites the higher than normal mortality rate for this procedure at Columbia-Presbyterian:

The hospital where former President Bill Clinton awaits bypass surgery has the highest death rate for the operation in New York State, according to the state’s Health Department. While the death rate is quite low – fewer than 4 percent of all bypass operations – it is still nearly double the average for hospitals in the state that perform bypasses.

This is a pretty unfair piece. One of major reasons why this is the case is that major academic medical centers (such as Columbia-Presbyterian) also do the highest-risk patients that no other medical center would want to touch. It is inevitable that the mortality rate for these places are higher, and should not be reflective of the quality of the institution nor the skill of the surgeon.

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