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November 19, 1982

Cause of Death in Very Old People

JAMA. 1982;248(19):2448. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330190018008

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To the Editor.—  I cannot agree with the basic theme of Dr Kohn expressed in his article entitled "Cause of Death in Very Old People" (1982;247:2793). People do not die of old age—they die of disease. Senescence is not an acceptable explanation of death.No purpose is served by inventing a wastebasket term to explain the cause of death. No scientific principle is advanced by generalizations. We need more, not less, study of the mode of death in the elderly, so that the quality, if not the quantity, of their lives can be improved.The physician must never accept death as inevitable. He should always seek to identify diseases that can be treated for the betterment of the patient. A needless death is a tragedy at any age.People do not die of advanced age any more than premature infants die simply because they are too young.My practice of