Monday, October 05, 2009

The infant mortality canard 

Ann Coulter destroys the use of infant mortality statistics to "prove" the shortcomings of the American health care system (permanent link). Apparently many European countries, which appear to get better results, actually count a lot of infant deaths as miscarriages.

But the international comparisons in "infant mortality" rates aren't comparing the same thing, anyway. We also count every baby who shows any sign of life, irrespective of size or weight at birth.

By contrast, in much of Europe, babies born before 26 weeks' gestation are not considered "live births." Switzerland only counts babies who are at least 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) as being born alive. In Canada, Austria and Germany, only babies weighing at least a pound are considered live births.

And of course, in Milan it's not considered living if the baby isn't born within driving distance of the Côte d'Azur.

By excluding the little guys, these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call "infant deaths" in America as "miscarriages."

Moreover, many industrialized nations, such as France, Hong Kong and Japan -- the infant mortality champion -- don't count infant deaths that occur in the 24 hours after birth. Almost half of infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first day...

Although we have a lot more low birth-weight and premature babies for both demographic and lifestyle reasons, at-risk newborns are more likely to survive in America than anywhere else in the world. Japan, Norway and the other countries with better infant mortality rates would see them go through the roof if they had to deal with the same pregnancies that American doctors do.

There's more, including this excellent point:
But I think it's terrific that liberals are finally willing to start looking at outcomes to judge a system. I say we start right away with the public schools!

In international comparisons, American 12th-graders rank in the 14th percentile in math and the 29th percentile in science. The U.S. outperformed only Cyprus and South Africa in general math and science knowledge. Worse, Asian countries didn't participate in the last 12th-grade assessment tests.

Imagine how much worse our public schools would look -- assuming that were possible -- if we allowed other countries to exclude one-half of their worst performers!

That's exactly what liberals are doing when they tout America's rotten infant mortality rate compared to other countries. They look for any category that makes our medical care look worse than the rest of the world -- and then neglect to tell us that the rest of the world counts our premature and low birth-weight babies as "miscarriages."

Release the hounds.


By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Mon Oct 05, 10:35:00 AM:

Every once in a while an Inconvenient Truth emerges that is actually true. I just hate that.


By Anonymous vicki pasadena ca, at Mon Oct 05, 11:13:00 AM:

The only thing that Ann Coulter destroys is my ability to hold down my breakfast.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 05, 11:53:00 AM:

I doubt your readers are surprised; it's no secret that infant mortality is a self reported statistic using such wildly differing standards that comparisons between countries are meaningless. What you fail to mention (maybe it's in the link - didn't have time to read it) is that infant mortality is one of the largest factors (possibly THE largest) in life expectancy at birth, another stat thrown around by people trying to convince you that some other country's medical system is superior to ours.  

By Anonymous JSF, at Mon Oct 05, 12:52:00 PM:

I love how Coulter irritates the Left. Apparently Leftists are unaware they may have untenable positions from time to time.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Oct 05, 02:06:00 PM:

My father was a doctor and he told me this decades ago. It is not new knowledge, which makes the left's use of it to support socialized medicine all the more dishonest. The fact that the leftists hate Ann Coulter is hardly the point, the point is that the left has been lying about the facts on the health care issue since the beginning.  

By Blogger Teflon Dad, at Mon Oct 05, 02:28:00 PM:

Once again, "there are lies, damned lies and statistics" (Samuel Clemens).

False statistics are immortal when politically useful. The problem of neonatal mortality is a prime example of healthcare myths but is scarcely alone.

This is unreported old news, as science always takes a backseat to sensationalism and expediency.

To quote Twain again, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Mon Oct 05, 06:26:00 PM:

Hmmm.. I guess Obama was just being "European" when he voted against the resuscitation of infants that survived botched abortions.

Ann Coulter is fantastic. Her opponents are not just unable to debater her...they are harpooned in the process. My wife and I met her at a function in Richmond and she is quite a gracious person.  

By Blogger SR, at Mon Oct 05, 11:51:00 PM:

She is terrific at her writing thing, but I've sen her debated by Barney Frank of all people. She could barely get a word in edgewise, and Frank sounded much more factual. Sorry.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Tue Oct 06, 07:07:00 AM:

I'd love to see that clip! Barney Frank impresses me as being neither factual nor articulate...he just shouts louder than his opponents.

This is irrespective of the fact that he belongs in jail.  

By Blogger class-factotum, at Tue Oct 06, 07:59:00 AM:

if they had to deal with the same pregnancies that American doctors

Which is why so many high-risk babies are born in the US. My sister is a neo-natal NP and sees foreign mothers all the time. American babies, of course. Born sick. Who get social security disability benefits. But that's another story.  

By Anonymous JT, at Tue Oct 06, 10:27:00 AM:


You took the words out of my mouth ... shouting down fact isn't outdebating. And anything coming from that marble-mouthed pedophile is hard to take serious to begin with.

My favorite Coulter moment was her debating Ron Kuby (NYC talk show guy and lawyer to scum) about the Patriot Act. She just said, I'm a constitutional lawyer and I've read the Act ... where would you like (your intellectual ass whippin' to begin)?

Ron had nothing further to say (after whining beforehand).

Nuf said.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 06, 10:34:00 AM:

It's hard to outdebate Barney Frank. He's very smart in a limited way, and has a quick, articulate mouth. He's blessed with no shame and no self-doubt -- he's totally self-centered to the point it's pathological. Just what you want in an elected representative.

In 2012 the Republicans should run against Barney and Nancy in a national campaign to take away their chairmanships. It's a way to win back the House. The air going out of the Obama balloon isn't enough.

Link, over  

By Blogger Brian, at Wed Oct 07, 11:18:00 AM:

I'm not surprised by Coulter's statement that she blames black people for the high American mortality rate. It shows her typical class.

As for this quote of hers: "By excluding the little guys, these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call "infant deaths" in America as "miscarriages." "

I want a citation, because I won't take as true any assertion spewed out of her mouth.

Finally, she never deals with whether, on an apples-to-apples comparison, US mortality is higher than Europe's. That would be the next step in the analysis, yet it's missing. I wonder why....  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Wed Oct 07, 01:15:00 PM:

Speaking of apples to apples comparisons, any idea if the death rate due to diabetes as remarked on by Powerline could be subject to the same kind of intentional number tweaking as birth mortality rates? (i.e. are many European diabetes death rates being classified something like “misc” or “old age” in order to tweak the numbers)  

By Anonymous tyree, at Thu Oct 08, 07:06:00 PM:

There ya go Brian,


Just because you hate her doesn't mean she isn't right. There are differences between the races just as there are differences between the sexes. To examine these differences is not "blaming" anyone. To be ignorant of them is to be, well, ignorant.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Thu Oct 08, 07:22:00 PM:

Government run health care has a vested interest in making sure it looks good to the citizens, so there could be all kinds of reporting irregualarities. As I mentioned above, my father talked to me about the infant mortality numbers when I was in high school in the early 70's. It is something the American medicial profession has been dealing with for a very long time. Just a few years ago the US came under attack by some dishonest "activists" who said that our depleted uranium tank rounds caused birth defects in Iraq. After a few weeks the truth came out that Iraqis living in Great Britian had the same rate of birth defects. The apparent cause is a perchant for marrying family members. The left uses "junk science" quite often to prop up their crazy schemes.  

By Anonymous Brian Schmidt, at Fri Oct 09, 06:20:00 PM:

Tyree - thanks for finding the paper, but it doesn't answer the apples-to-apples question.

Also worth noting that it's a 15-year-old paper using 25-year-old data. To what extent is it still applicable, if it even was accurate at the time?  

By Anonymous tyree, at Fri Oct 09, 09:01:00 PM:

All I know for sure, Brian, is that my father was a Doctor and he first talked to me about this 40 years ago. Countries do not define medical terms the same way and apparently never have.

Heck I just found out today that Napoleon was 5'-2" tall, using a French ruler, which made him 5'-6" tall in the English system, or average in height for his time period. So even the "short dead dude" of Bill and Ted fame was a victim of international data comparisons.  

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