The COVID-19 Classification Con

In a March 24, 2020 COVID-19 Alert sheet issued by the National Vital Statistics System, guidance for classification of COVID-19 deaths states “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease is caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death.”

The classification of deaths to a virus, while ignoring or failing to classify the death to the underlying condition, is completely ahistorical and a reversal of practice in modern American medicine. Directors of Health Departments in various states, as well as media personalities, have made the argument the patient would have lived longer if they had not contracted COVID-19 so the death should count in the COVID-19 death toll. However, this is a new standard.

One only has to look to HIV patients as an example. In the final stages of AIDS, pneumonia is common and, in the majority of cases, deadly. Pneumonia is the leading co-morbidity of death for HIV patients. When an AIDS patient dies of pneumonia the terminology used for the past thirty years has been the patient died from “complications from HIV.” According to the new standard set forth post-COVID-19, this terminology should not even exist in the American medical vernacular. The new standard dictates that an AIDS patient who dies from pneumonia should have their cause of death listed as solely pneumonia, not HIV. Would not the HIV patient have lived longer if they not contracted pneumonia? Thus, we should reclassify the overwhelmingly majority of HIV deaths over the past thirty years to simply pneumonia, not HIV. Also, does the medical community “assume” HIV deaths? Would a doctor just assume that a patient who lost weight over the past several months had HIV? Absolutely not, nor, obviously, should they do so. It would be medical malpractice. Now, with COVID-19, that philosophy is the new standard.

I have had my own personal experience with this. My father passed after a heart transplant after a 20 year battle with heart disease. He had multiple heart attacks and open heart surgeries during those 20 years. The transplant he received was incredibly successful. I recall the doctor telling us it was one of the best transplant surgeries he had ever conducted. However, my father developed an infection after the transplant and passed just a few days later. The cause of death was heart disease, not the viral infection that killed him. I don’t even believe our family was told what type of infection he had contracted after his surgery. According to the new post-COVID-19 standard my father’s death should be classified to the viral infection that killed him, not his 20 year battle with heart disease. Would not my father lived longer if he had not contracted an infection in the hospital?

Dr. Dan Erickson, a Bakersfield Urgent Care doctor, in a news conference that went viral, made this point. He stated “when someone dies in this country right now they are not talking the high blood pressure, the diabetes, the stroke, they say did they die of COVID? We have been to hundreds of autopsies, you do not talk about one thing you talk about co-morbidities. Their vessels were narrowed, their lungs were a smoker. COVID was part of it, it was not the reason they died folks.” He continues “to be so simplistic to say that is a COVID death because they have COVID. Do you how many people die with pneumonia or people that die from flu, with flu I should say, it is not from flu. Their lungs were compromised from COPD, they had a heart attack two years ago, they have a weakened body.”

Dr. Erikson also states that in the current environment his colleagues are being pressured to classify deaths as COVID-19 deaths. Why would hospital administrators and/or state officials encourage doctors to ignore co-morbidities and classify as simply COVID-19 deaths? The most likely answer is it is the only source of revenue for hospitals in the current environment. Hospitals are empty due to the majority of states eliminating elective procedures. In addition, people who are sick with various aliments are afraid to go to the hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19. Nurses are being furloughed. Floors and wings of hospitals are being shuttered because elective surgeries were cancelled to handle this onslaught of COVID-19 cases that never materialized. Thus, the classification of COVID -19 deaths is the only source of revenue for hospitals in most states, i.e., classifying deaths as COVID-19 is the only way to keep hospitals open and running as there is no other revenue source for hospital administrators in most states.
When one considers all this information, the only logical conclusion is the current death toll attributed to COVID-19 is grossly over exaggerated.

When, in the history of modern medicine, have doctors received instructions from governmental agencies to “assume” the cause of death? Why are we currently ignoring co-morbidities/underlying factors, which again, is ahistorical, and simplistically classifying deaths as solely COVID-19? State and federal government officials should be forced to answer these questions by the media, but it is likely the question will never be posed to such officials as the answer may destroy the current narrative that we are being overrun in this country with COVID-19 deaths.

David L. House II, M.P.A., Ed.D.

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