Quebec counts cancer death as from COVID if deceased tested positive

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda.

Quebec health authorities classify deaths as from COVID-19 even if the deceased who tested positive died from cancer or another disease, Quebec Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda told the media last week.

“Anytime, in Quebec, someone dies from cancer or another disease, if they have COVID-19 it will be counted as COVID-19,” Arruda was quoted as saying. “That’s not necessarily the case everywhere.

And Premier François Legault also told the media that his government chooses to overestimate COVID-19 deaths. This all calls into question exactly how many Quebecers, and people in other jurisdictions, have actually died as a result of COVID. It is also pertinent to the question of government transparency and methodology since the Legault government has stated on several occasions that Quebec’s restrictive measures will be decided by the number of hospitalizations and deaths, not just cases.

There are numerous instances in which COVID has caused or exacerbated another condition.But there have also been numerous examples in which people classified as having died of COVID actually died of something completely unrelated, or those deceased or still living were not even determined to have had COVID but were counted as having had it.

Some jurisdictions have admitted the same counting method but have changed them. Here are just some examples. Last May the Colorado Department of Health and Environment revised that state’s total deaths ‘due to’ COVID-19 downward from 1,150 to 878 after local news reported the state was inflating its fatality count in a similar fashion.

In June, the State of Washington’s Department of Health said it had been counting as coronavirus deaths all people who died and tested positive for the disease. Authorities said they removed deaths from the count that weren’t caused specifically by COVID-19 and had changed their methodology. The death toll had been inflated by 13%.

In July British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) counts COVID-19 deaths after discovering what appeared to be a serious issue in how rates are calculated. His review was sparked by Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan, of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, writing that, ‘It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not. PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the COVID test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community.” The Guardian newspaper reported at the time that a Department of Health and Social Care source admitted that, “You could have been tested positive in February, have no symptoms, then be hit by a bus in July and you’d be recorded as a COVID death.”

The latest Center for Disease Control figures for the United States, updated as of Oct. 28, lists “Conditions Contributing to Deaths where COVID-19 was listed on the death certificate.” Of total deaths, six percent listed COVID as the only cause — of the rest, there was an average of “2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

Of the total 210,326, regarding respiratory failure, 91,153 listed flu and pneumonia, 18,421 listed chronic lower respiratory diseases, 27,141 listed adult respiratory distress syndrome, 73,303 listed respiratory failure, and 7,966 lists “other diseases of the respiratory system.”

Other conditions “contributing to death” that included COVID included hypertensive diseases (45,574), ischemic heart disease (24,002), cardiac arrythmia (13,588), cerebrovascular diseases (10,470), Alzheimer disease (7,722), vascular and unspecified dementia (23,647), diabetes (34,627) and, notably, “intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events (7,384).

“All other conditions and causes (residual)” numbered 108,055.

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