The Cause of Death – Part 2

The Cause of Death – Part 2 September 14, 2020

This is the second article on this subject. The first dealt with the attempt by Trump supporters to deflect blame from him for nearly 200,000 deaths caused by the virus. This article deals with other aspects of the issue.

A common claim is that only 6% of the deaths attributed to the virus were actually caused by the virus. The rest were caused by other pre-existing conditions. In other words, 94% of the people would have died anyway. If that is true, then statistics for total US death rate should only be higher by 6% of 200,000, or about 12,000 this year. But that is not the case. For the first half of this year, the US had over 185,000 “excess deaths” compared to previous years.[i] Is it a coincidence that this number is similar to the number of deaths attributed to the virus?

Another claim is that the “excess deaths” are actually lower in the US than they are in Europe, so Trump is actually doing a good job of controlling the virus. Trump has made this claim repeatedly in speeches and in Tweets, claiming that excess mortality in Europe was 33% to 40% higher.[ii]

Nobody has been able to figure out where Trump got these numbers. His White House staff has been queried, but has not responded. It appears that he pulled them out of the usual place inside the seat of his pants.

As the cited article says, determining the cause of death during a pandemic is a difficult process. There are many indirect factors that can either inflate or reduce the numbers:

Not all of the excess deaths during a pandemic period are from people who succumbed to COVID-19, although many of them likely are. Excess mortality also captures the indirect effects of the pandemic, including people who may have died from other causes because they avoided seeking medical attention or from overwhelmed hospitals, as well as increases in suicide.

Similarly, excess mortality factors in the benefits of pandemic conditions, such as a reduction in deaths from car accidents as well as fewer deaths from other communicable diseases that may have declined as a result of COVID-19-inspired physical distancing and other public health measures.

For the most part, these indirect causes cannot be quantified. Even when the virus is identified as the cause of death, the death certificates often show other symptoms that contributed to the death. Some are pre-existing conditions, but others are side-effects of the virus infection itself.

I think it is fair to conclude that if a person catches the virus and dies, claiming that the cause of death was something other than the virus is not reasonable in most cases.

 

[i] https://www.factcheck.org/2020/08/trump-touts-misleading-and-flawed-excess-mortality-statistic/

 

[ii] Ibid

 

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