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Suicide is Not a Cause of Death

Neither are medical errors. Recent news reports rank “medical errors” as the third most frequent cause of death in America with suicide close behind.

Drug overdose, for example, clearly qualifies as a cause of death. Accidental overdose also kills a lot of people. But if the overdose results when a doctor orders too much or a nurse gives too much, we call it medical error, even though it, too, is an accident. Intentional overdose is usually classified as suicide, unless someone else does it to the victim, in which case we call it murder.

Actual “causes” of death include trauma, burns, asphyxiation, heart attack, cancer, stroke, poisoning, and infection, among others.

Let us rank accidents, murder, suicide, and medical error separately to avoid mixing apples and oranges.


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