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From: (Steven B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Causes of Death in America
Date: Sat, 06 Jul 1996

In <4rkoad$> (Robert & Sonja Wood)
>  1.  Heart Disease						37.8%
>  2.  Cancer							19.3%
>  3.  Stroke							10.3%
>  4.  Accidents (Non-Auto)					  3.0%
>  5.  Influenza (Pneumonia)					  2.9%
>  6.  Motor Vehicle Accidents					  2.4%
>  7.  Diabetes							  1.9%
>  8.  Liver Disease						  1.7%
>  9.  Arterial Sclerosis					  1.5%
>10.  Suicide							  1.4%
>48% of the deaths in America this year will come from Heart Disease
>and Stokes.

   I'd take that with a grain of salt, since just about everyone
ultimately dies of cardiac failure (think about it), and that's what
gets put on the death certificate if the doctor isn't really sure what
happened (some old person dies in his sleep or collapses in the middle
of some other mild illness).  But this isn't really heart disease so
much as a catastrophic chain-reaction failure of a very frail system
without much reserve, like a house of cards.   That reserve has been
lost to aging.  One autopsy you find nearly everything wrong in a lot
of 90-year olds, but nothing in particular.  Thus, lots of people do
die of old age in America, but you can't put this on a death
certificate most places, either.  So what gets put on instead?  You
guessed it.

                                           Steve Harris, M.D.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Death from Old Age
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997

In <> (JG Bray) writes:

>Is there any such thing as death purely from "old age"? I know that
>organs tend to wear out, the immune system deteriorates and free radical
>attack progressively damages cells but these deaths surely fall under the
>categories of cardiac arrest, strokes, cancers, infections etc.

   When you autopsy really old people you find in a large fraction of
cases that they have everything wrong with them, but nothing in
particular.  Cause of death is then rather difficult to determine.
Saying "cardiac arrest" is a cop-out, since in that sense we ALL die of
cardiac arrest.   Some states allow "old age" as a diagnosis in death
certificates, and some don't.

    What is the truth?  That's probably a matter of taste.  Does your
old car break down because of old age, or because of a flat tire, a
busted water pump,  broken timing chain, etc, etc, etc?   Do you insist
on seeing things in the general or the specific sense?

                              Steve Harris, M.D.

From: Steve Harris <>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,,
Subject: Re: Homeopathy no better than dummy drugs, says study
Date: 28 Aug 2005 19:45:26 -0700
Message-ID: <>

Rich wrote:
> I agree. I see a lot of death certificates. Doctors can write anything they
> want in the "cause of death" space, and what they write has little to do
> with the true cause of the demise in most cases. I've even seen "cardiac
> arrest" listed as a cause of death. Cardiac arrest is a symptom, not a
> disease, and is the end result of every cause of death. I have often wished
> that there were a legally mandatory protocol for recording death causes, so
> that the death certificates, which are public records, could be a valuable
> source of data for research. As it is, they are useless.
> --


Not quite. In the old days it may have been. Today, serious students of
mortality stats know to throw "cardiac arrest" or "respiratory arrest"
completely out if any doctor writes it as proximal cause. They then
proceed to secondary or even teriary causes. "Respiratory arrest"
caused by "pneumonia" caused by "lung cancer" gets coded (quite
properly) as "lung cancer." A certificate with nothing but "cardiac
arrest" with nothing else writen as causal (not even MI), will probably
get tossed out of good mortality cause stats completely. As it should,
since some fraction of these elderly people die in their sleep of
unknown causes, and without an autopsy you don't know what killed them.
The doc needs to write something in, in order to avoid a coroner-case
or ME-case (though truthfully most of these don't get autopsied anyway,
getting made a ME-case gums up the funeral works, time-wise), so that's
what goes in. It's a socially certified place-holder for "I haven't a
clue what he died of; one day the old guy just didn't wake up."

Maybe Jesus just called him home. Or it could have been bad juju.


From: Steve Harris <>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,,
Subject: Re: Homeopathy no better than dummy drugs, says study
Date: 28 Aug 2005 20:01:45 -0700
Message-ID: <>

Happy Dog wrote:
> "C.Health" <> wrote in
> > Very poor argument Mark, sorry. All deaths and causes are recorded.
> My neighbour has congestive heart failure.  He's a Christian Scientist sheep
> and refused medical attention in favour of the ministrations of his
> Christian Science practitioner.  When he finally collapsed, puffed to 150%
> of his normal size, he accepted medication which promptly reduced the edema.
> He's now torn between prayer and having bandages wrapped around his limbs to
> control the edema (he'll likely die since he's tried this a couple times and
> he becomes comatose after a few days) and accepting medication.  If dies
> because he eschews real medical care, will his death certificate read
> "Christ-besotted idiot.  Died from lack of proper medical care."?
> moo


I've quit writing "cardiac arrest" and "repiratory arrest" as causes of
death, at all, because they don't help the data-collectors (and I know
are thrown out). But "congestive heart failure" is a perfectly good
cause of death. In both California and Utah they not only have a
cascade of causes (which you're supposed to fill in, in terms of
decreasingly less proximateness), but the doctor is required to write
the time-course of affliction in, for each of them.  Thus, if you write
that your patient died of "primary cardiac arrhythmia" (lasting
minutes) after 3 months of congestive heart failure, he'll likely get
coded as a CHF death (if you don't put what the rhythm was, they assume
you weren't monitoring it, so what do you know, anyway?). But do the
same and put CHF time as "hours", he'll probably get coded as an CAD
death, even if you don't put down MI.

Utah's death certificate (at least) has a separate "sin spot" for
"contributory causes" which were not *directly* responsible for death.
This is where the doctor gets to exercise his professional indignation
by putting in stuff like "chronic alcoholism" for the stroke guy, or
"smoking" or "morbid obesity" for the MI death.  In the case of your
guy, I'd be SORELY tempted to put "Christian Science" in, right there.


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