April 16, 2011

The recently published preliminary data regarding deaths in the United States for the most recent year available (2009) indicate that the death rate in 2009 was 741.0 per 100,000 population (a total of 2,436,682 deaths in the United States during 2009), down from 758.7 in 2008, which represented a significant drop in death rates for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. The death rate by sex, race, and Hispanic origin all decreased between 2008 and 2009. Hawaii had the lowest death rate in 2009 and West Virginia had the highest.

For those born in 2009, the life expectancy was 78.2 years (an increase of 0.2 years from 2008). Life expectancy rates for males increased by 0.2 years from 2008 to 2009 (75.5 to 75.7 years) and life expectancy rates for females increased by 0.1 years (from 80.5 to 80.6 years). The difference between male and female life expectancies at birth has generally been decreasing since its peak of 7.8 years in 1979 (it was 4.9 years in 2009). The difference in life expectancy between white and black populations was 4.3 years in 2009 (an increase of 0.2 years from 2008). White females have the highest life expectancy followed in order by black females, white males, and black males (which has not changed since 1975).

The leading causes of death (in descending order) in 2009 were: (1) heart diseases, (2) malignant neoplasms (cancer), (3) chronic lower respiratory diseases (lungs), (4) cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke), (5) accidents (unintentional injuries), (6) Alzheimer’s disease, (7) diabetes mellitus, (8) influenza (flu) and pneumonia, (9) nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidneys), (10) intentional self-harm (suicide), (11) septicemia (blood infections), (12) chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, (13) essential hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypertensive renal disease, (14) Parkinson’s disease, and (15) assault (homicide). From 2008 to 2009, there were significant decreases in death rates for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death (nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 15). Deaths from heart diseases and malignant neoplasms both decreased in 2009 but still accounted for 48% of the deaths in the United States in 2009.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was not among the 15 top causes of death in the United States during 2009 (the death rate for HIV from 2008 to 2009 decreased by 9.1%). HIV death rates increased from 1987 through 1994, plateaued in 1995, after which it decreased an average of 33% per year from 1995 through 1998 and 5.1% per year from 1999 through 2008. 

The death rate attributable to Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a bacteria which causes inflammation of the intestines, is often associated with long-term patients in hospitals and residents of nursing homes. The deaths due to C. difficile increased between 1999 and 2008 (the deaths decreased slightly to 7,285 during 2009).  In 2009, C. difficile was ranked as the 19th leading cause of death for people 65 and older in the United States (approximately 92% of the C. difficile deaths in 2009 occurred in the 65 and older population).

Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. While many of us cannot and do not choose when we die and the cause of our own deaths, when the medical professionals we entrust our health and life to cause or contribute to an early death, our laws provide for compensation for the avoidable deaths and for the loved ones left behind. If the death of  a loved one was caused by the medical malpractice of a trusted health care provider, you owe it to yourself to seek legal advice regarding your rights (and the rights of the person who died). Please visit our website to be connected to medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who can help you with your claim. You may also contact us toll free by telephone at 800-295-3959.