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JAMA 100 Years Ago
November 21, 2012

“DOES GOD FIX THE DEATH-RATE?”

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2012;308(19):1956. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3330

A broad-minded clergyman in his Tuberculosis Day sermon propounded this question and reached a conclusion decidedly negative. “God does not fix the death-rate.” Who does then? We all do.

Those theologians aid high death-rates who ignore the demonstrated facts of preventable disease and seek to perpetuate the medieval superstition that infections are the Almighty's merited scourge. Laymen who flout the scientific proof that tuberculosis is curable and can be eliminated from human experience, or who disparage a tuberculosis propaganda as of no personal concern to them, help to cause the death of a consumptive every three minutes in the United Slates. Councils and legislatures which will not appropriate funds sufficient for the fight, which health boards would wage against the Great White Plague are largely responsible for the death of ten thousand a year, twenty-seven deaths every day, in one city alone. Those who disregard antispitting ordinances and the like help to send the death-rate upward. Housewives whose culinary efforts produce dyspeptics directly and drunkards indirectly give far more impetus to the upward trend of the death-rate than most of us imagine. Venders of “patent medicines” and consumption cures who fleece their victims until the latter have passed far beyond the incipient stage in which physicians could have helped them—such nostrum-fakers have a full share of responsibility for the thousands on thousands of deaths from tuberculosis throughout the country. Those who draw profit from feeding the poor on adulterated food, “rots and spots,” and fowls dead in storage several years back, have a similar responsibility for a high death-rate.

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