Death from "Old Age"

I found this on completely unreliable website:

I’ve also heard the same on the British quiz show QI, which has also proven to be unreliable.

The Googles do nothing.

So, what’s the straight dope? Any truth to this?

My authoritative source on all medical information, Car Talk’s “The Puzzler,” gives me the same info.

Out of curiosity, which episode of QI was that in? I don’t remember it.

My guess is that they wanted to be more technically accurate. Nobody really dies of old age. Certainly advanced age is a major factor in whatever underlying cause kills a person, but I’m sure that the people who keep these stats wanted a full listing of the actual medical condition that killed a person.

Also, I’m sure that many county coroners at the time were just putting “old age” as a cause of death for anyone over age 70. It probably kept the records more accurate.

Although, several years ago my grandfather died of cancer, but the cause listed on his death certificate is “pneumonia”. Even though he had cancer, what technically killed him was the fluid build up in his lungs.

So it looks like they’ve went from one extreme to the other.

If “old age” has been replaced by other causes, does this mean that statistical increases in cancer deaths could be attributed to a different classification, rather than an increase in actual incidence of cancer?

On the other hand, some medical examiners are inexplicably vague. When my Dad died, an autopsy was performed, and the ME listed the cause of death as “complications of heart disease”. I thought that was rather inconclusive, so I called him, and asked if Dad had a heart attack, or any blockage of an artery and he said no. He just kept coming back to “But he had heart disease”. I pointed out that heart disease is the process, not the cause of death. He declined to be any more specific.

Old age has been replaced by Natural Causes as a cause of death.

COD on a death certificate is couched in legal terms, not necessarily, medical.

Life and death are both very simple (and very complicated.) Air goes in and out, blood goes round and round, or it doesn’t.

The cause of all deaths is the cessation of breathing and circulation long enough for brain cell failure.

The rest is detail.

Is “cardiac arrest” still a valid cause of death on death certificates? I seem to remember a doctor somewhere (and I confess, it may have been on TV) getting all hot that “cardiac arrest” is an effect of death, not a cause.

If a doctor or coroner decided that someone died of old age at 85, then why wouldn’t everyone else also die by age 85? People don’t die just because they’re old. When they get old, something goes wrong and they die because of it.

Now I’m depressed.

It’s the same reason “nuclear weapon” has largely displaced “atomic bomb.” The latter has no pizazz.

That’s kind of true, but it’s ultimately true of all causes of death except "neutralisation of neuronal membrane potential within the CNS’. Nobody ever wrote "neutralisation of neuronal membrane potential within the CNS’ on a death certificate because it would simply mean that the cause of death was death. We define death as "neutralisation of neuronal membrane potential within the CNS’.

As you can see the whole thing becomes silly semantic quibbles. Death is defined as brain death and can only be caused by the brain dying. The question isn’t really what caused the death, which is always brain death, but what was the proximate cause.

Many things can cause cardiac arrest, from a blood clot in the heart to a blow on the head to electrocution to suffocation to loss of blood. The point is that as you die of any of those things it is entirely possible that your heart will at some point fail: cardiac arrest. As such cardiac arrest is technically an effect of dying (not of death).

The point to note though is that had the heart not failed none of those things are necessarily fatal. If the heart kept beating then you could lose thousands of gallons of blood or have every single artery in your heart blocked or be electrocuted for hours and still not necessarily die. So in a very important respect cardiac arrest is the cause of death although brought itself by other causes.

From what I’ve seens causes of death are more likely to be listed as things like “cardiac arrest caused by myocardial infact” or “cause of death due to brain damage occasioned by a blow”. That keeps things nice and clear. Brain death was brought on because the heart stopped, and that’s what killed the person. The heart itself was stopped because the person was kicked by a horse or had a massive heart attack/ Because we need to acknowledge that many people are kicked by horses or have massive heart attacks without dying we note that in this case they died not from those things but from the heart stopping due to those events.

An atomic bomb is one made of something like TNT or fertilizer: The reactions that make the ‘boom’ go on between atoms, or more precisely their electron shells. A nuclear weapon is one made with plutonium or uranium: The reactions that make the ‘boom’ go on between atomic nuclei, and the electron shells don’t matter at that point.

Any other usage is pure ignorance. This is science, not English.

Yeah, those idiots at Grolier Encyclopedia:

And with regard to the thread, where’s gabriela when you need her?

Point being?

Let’s discuss this elsewhere.

The point being that an “atomic bomb” and a “nuclear bomb” are exactly the same thing.

By the way, there is something known as the ICD, International Cause of Death coding.

It’s now up to its 10th revision.

I work on the end of that where we receive those codes. I believe that doctors have to pick one when they declare a person dead.

You can click on the one for “neoplasms” for instance, to see how much goes into cancer classification.

The V through Y codes are shit like “getting shot” and “drowning”.

I don’t think that “old age” is anywhere on there. The origination of ICD might have been when “old age” stopped being a classification. I’m pretty sure it was no one’s intention to just make it sound sexier.

Let’s try “International Classification of Diseases”. Colloquially, perhaps, International Cause of Death.

Full name: International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems