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September 30, 1974

The Cause of Death

Author Affiliations


JAMA. 1974;229(14):1866. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230520014013

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To the Editor.—  The EDITORIAL by Hugh H. Hussey, MD, ("The Cause of Death") (229:75, 1974) would have benefited greatly from the editorial by Samuel Vaisrub, MD, ("The Whole Truth") sharing the same page, had Dr. Hussey enjoyed a bit of prerecognition.Dr. Hussey notes correctly that the true cause of death is not to be found on the official death certificate. However, he does not give us the whole truth.In his first illustrative case, a 65-year-old woman, on a day when rain was freezing on the pavement, slipped and broke her right hip. The fracture was treated promptly and acceptably, but on the eighth hospital day she was observed by her roommate to be gasping for breath. Five minutes later she died. Permission for a postmortem examination was denied, and the attending physician listed pulmonary embolism as the prime cause of death. The editorial suggested that the true