Dementias as a cause of death???

Dementia 11Dr. Michael J. O’Connell, PainCare, New Hampshire noted that something he has found increasingly irksome is the claim that Alzheimer’s and other dementias are the “sixth leading cause of death in the US.”  This is so wrong.  It is a huge and, in my opinion, intentional lie.  I understand why the dementia societies’ would be keenly interested in promoting the concept that dementia is a killer, because it would draw yet more funding of research.  A dreaded disease?  Yes.  A disease likely to become much more prevalent over the next couple of decades?  Yes!!  A killer?  No.

I would venture to say that no one has EVER died of Alzheimer’s.  As human bodies, we do not rely on our cerebrums for remaining alive; conscious and/or lucid, yes.  All our intrinsic mechanisms for staying alive, reside elsewhere in our pons, medulla, diencephalon, and other areas of the brain essentially unaffected by dementia.  Sure, dementia victims are more prone to urinary tract infections, horrible skin ulcerations and infections, major fractures from falls, and deep venous thrombosis with pulmonary emboli due to immobility.  But these problems ARE the CAUSE OF DEATH, not the dementia.

I am a huge supporter of dementia research and have donated extensively to many entities dedicated to finding a cure.  But, let them not falsely portray Alzheimer’s as a cause of death, when it ISN’T.

Death certificates are often filled out by physicians who are hardly familiar with the patient.  The certificate lists:

  • The immediate cause of death, such as the heart stopping
  • The intermediate causes, which triggered the immediate cause, such as a myocardial infarction
  • The underlying causes, which triggered the chain of events leading to death, such as atherosclerotic vascular disease, and
  • Any other diseases and disorders the person had at the time of death, even though they did not directly cause the death.

It is upon the fourth item that dementia fundraisers focus.  While commendable for reasons stated above, this practice is deceitful at best.  Death certificates should be filled out by professionals who:

  1. Know the difference between the cause of a patient’s death, and an underlying disorder, and
  2. Who care to get it right

About Dr. Michael J. O'Connell, New Hampshire
Dr. Michael J. O'Connell of Barrington, New Hampshire, has forged a distinguished career spanning over three decades, as entrepreneur, physician, businessman, philanthropist and healthcare consultant. As former owner, administrator and CEO of a 225+ employee multi-specialty medical practice, Dr. O'Connell has dedicated his entire professional life to helping patients with family medicine and especially those experiencing chronic pain and all aspects of addiction. Since selling his family of healthcare businesses, he has never once contemplated retirement despite his rich and fulfilling journey, but instead has turned his focus to consulting in an industry starved for courage and creativity. Having weathered many political, technological and legal challenges, there is hardly a storm he has not confronted, a tempest he has not quelled, an urgent need he has not met. While the talking heads and self-proclaimed experts in the field have assumed the conventions and standards of the times, Dr. O'Connell does not believe in merely reflecting the herd mentality, but rather in leading the charge. Eschewing political correctness, Dr. O'Connell says and does what needs saying and doing, and not what the mindless masses expect. In addition to the continual education afforded by his variegated life experiences, Dr O'Connell earned his BS in Biochemistry at the University of NH in 1975, his Medical Degree from Dartmouth College in 1981, interned at Walter Reed Medical Center in 1982, Residency/Fellowship at UCSF in1986, and finished his Masters in Healthcare Administration at UNH in 1995. Dr. O’Connell enjoys many outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking, and golf. Through the decades Dr. O'Connell has supported many non-profit charities to include the St. Charles Home in Rochester NH, the Tri City VNA and Hospice, Hyder House, and Cocheco Valley Humane Society. To the latter organization alone Dr. O'Connell has donated over $180,000 and pledged another $250,000 in the “Bring-Us-Home” campaign for a new building. His “Matching Donations Christmas drive” has generated over $175,000 in charitable giving from the community. In addition Dr. O'Connell has participated in many dozens of other volunteer and donation efforts locally as well as in Africa and the Dominican Republic. For a listing of how I gave back to the community during my career and continue to do see:

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