Debate has surged in Russia around the extent to which coronaviruses must worsen existing conditions to be recorded as a cause of death, and that could be the reason why Russia’s death rate is so low.
- Thousands of Russian deaths have not been linked to coronavirus in cases where the deceased suffers from another condition
- Some people, including doctors, say the virus must always be recorded when there is a death
- The World Health Organization says it does not see problems with Russia’s approach
Before he died in a Moscow hospital earlier this month, Liubov Kashaeva, 74, was twice tested positive for COVID-19 but his death was not caused by a virus. It was caused by the cancer he was suffering from.
Ms. Kashaeva is one of thousands of Russians infected with COVID-19 whose deaths are caused by other causes.
Russia has recorded the second highest number of infections in the world with more than 308,000 global cases, and 2,972 deaths.
The figures produced a death rate of 1.88 per 100,000 Russians, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The equivalent figure for the US, which has the most cases in the world, is 27.61 per 100,000 Americans, and 52.45 in the United Kingdom.
Relatively in Australia, where 100 people have died from the virus the figure is 0.40.
Russia maintains its method
“We now know all the characteristics of COVID-19 quite well,” said pathologist Oleg Zairatyants, author of the Moscow Health Department guidelines for coronavirus autopsy.
“The results (of the analysis) are objective and spoken by the commission … Unfortunately people are dying, but the cause of their death is clear to us,” he said, when asked about deaths that were not associated with COVID-19 even when someone had tested positive for exposure virus.
However, the relatives of some of the dead patients disputed that their loved ones would die when they did not do it because of the virus.
Ms. Kashaeva was diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer in January but she will start chemotherapy and the family is expected to have more time with her.
On May 3, Ms. Kashaeva was taken to hospital after feeling weak. Scans showed he had pneumonia in both lungs, a common symptom of coronavirus infection, and two tests were taken, the results were positive.
Only 5 days later on May 8, Ms. Kashaeva died.
“If it wasn’t for coronavirus, with chemotherapy he would have survived for some time.”
‘We do not hide anything’
Moscow, the center of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, reported that more than 60 percent of the deaths of people infected with the corona virus in April were not counted as deaths, and were included in other causes.
The Moscow Ministry of Health says the way Russia counts corona virus deaths is more accurate than other countries and cites the benefits of a national testing program that has seen more than 7 million tests carried out.
Ms Kornilova said she felt that the decision on how to classify the death of her mother-in-law “depends on the party line.
“And as far as I know, at the moment, the party line says … that the number of Russian deaths must be as low as possible.”
The Kremlin said Russia’s use of autopsy in determining the cause of death distinguishes it from many western countries, which unlike Russia does not rely on post-mortem analysis.
Alexey Erlikh, head of intensive cardiac care at Moscow Hospital 29, who has been appointed to treat coronavirus, is one of many doctors who say the difference is arbitrary.
“But they also died due to complications from chronic diseases caused by viruses. Some people believe that such deaths should not be counted in the number of deaths due to coronavirus. I believe they should.
“At this point I am very at odds with some of my colleagues, top doctors whose pictures are hanging all over the city.”
‘From’ or ‘with’ Coronavirus?
In Britain, all deaths of people who tested positive for the corona virus, and those who had a negative test in which the corona virus was suspected, entered the death rate, according to Dr. Carl Heneghan.
“We are not in a position to distinguish death from ‘or’ from ‘coronavirus,” he said.
Speaking anonymously, pathologists based in Moscow say that making a clear distinction between the two is almost impossible.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it does not see a problem with Russia’s approach.
“There was no deliberate calculation,” Melita Vujnovic, the head of WHO’s representative in Russia, told Russian television.
“Maybe some recalculation can be done or something else … but right now I don’t see anything serious.”
ABC / Reuters
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