Cause of Death – Covid-19?
The death toll from Covid-19 is rising daily. New York and Washington state seem to have reached a plateau in daily deaths. Eventually every state will peak and then decline in deaths related to Covid-19. But what exactly is a Covid-19 death?
When I was trained, the cause of death for a person was the immediate cause of death. Deaths now attributed to Covid-19 would have been due to respiratory failure or pneumonia or some other complication of viral infection. Covid-19 would have been a contributing cause or even the precipitating cause, but not the final cause.
Today, anyone who dies having tested positive plus those not tested but possibly having had Covid-19 has that listed as the cause of death.
As we discussed last time, most of those who die with Covid-19 already have serious chronic diseases. Pre-existed chronic diseases should be counted too.
Poorly controlled diabetics are at higher risk of death from all causes, but diabetes is rarely listed as THE cause of death. COPD, asthma, emphysema and chronic steroid inhalers are the same. Heart attack is listed when the underlying cause was high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes.
Listing every underlying cause makes the total causes of death total way over 100%. But it can give us a better handle on the chronic conditions which debilitate individuals to the point that almost anything can finish them off. Pre-emptively testing for and treating chronic diseases will lower the death rate from Covid-19 and whatever comes next.
Jay Ginther, MD