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August 31, 1918


JAMA. 1918;71(9):746. doi:10.1001/jama.1918.02600350050013

It is hardly necessary to point out the great advantages to the public health involved in a correct and uniform system of reporting deaths, and yet one can hardly turn to a table of official mortality statistics without being perplexed by the need of reinterpretation of the data presented. A number of current controversies, such as that on the alleged increase of cancer, hinge very largely on the correct evaluation of reported causes of death. Some of the sources of error are at present unavoidable. As is well known, there are some certified causes of death, such as "influenza" and "rickets," in which the margin of error is so great that they are considered unacceptable as statements of the cause of death unless confirmed by necropsy.1 It is well known also that the diagnosis of some pathologic conditions is difficult at the best, that under some conditions, as in