The LeRoy catastrophe: A story of death, determination, and the importance of nutrition in medicine

Meguid, Michael

In August 1976, a young man named LeRoy fell from a ledge, fracturing his femur. Major internal bleeding was suspected. During a laparotomy, the trauma team ensured that all internal organs were intact and the orthopedic team set his fracture. Thirty days later, LeRoy died. He had eaten little; each day he only received three liters of glucose, the equivalent of 510 calories, intravenously. The glucose was insufficient to meet his nutritional needs, and he lost over 20% of his body weight during his hospital stay. The cause of death was due to “physician- induced” malnutrition. Meanwhile, a paper around the same time documented that the prevalence of malnutrition in Boston hospitals was 44% and that malnutrition itself was a predictor of higher complication and death rates. As a result, like-minded physicians formed a society that created training programs and encouraged formation of hospital nutrition teams. Industry produced nutrition formulas and catheters. Complications in sick hospitalized patients plummeted while survival rates rose, and California passed legislation to mandate nutritional support. Though the health care industry recognized the importance of nutrition in patient care, Congress failed to pass fiscal support for nutrition teams. As a result, hospitals disbanded their newly created nutrition teams, nutrition education and skills declined, and hospital complications and death rates have risen again.


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Columbia Medical Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University
Published Here
August 25, 2015