Killing Death- Accidents

Alaska's Death Certificate, box 30

Alaska’s Death Certificate, Box 30
Image by author

Could we ever stamp out all causes of death, creating perfect immortality for everyone? I work for the state government of Alaska, and I often see death certificates when people claim a permanent fund dividend for someone who has passed away. No matter which state the certificates come from, they have portions similar to the image below.

Death Cert

Note the check boxes in the lower left corner. As complicated as death is, causes of death are broken down to a multiple choice test. Certifiers in Alaska can choose from Accident, Natural, Suicide, Homicide, Pending, and could not be determined. It seems to me that I could write a post about how each cause of death could, or could not, be overcome, so that’s what I’ll do for the next few weeks.

Accident

 Mixing prescription drugs into a deadly interaction, vehicle accidents, snow machine accidents (snow machine is Alaskan for snow mobile), and drug use are examples of causes I’ve seen on the death certificates of people under 40.  What would it take to prevent all those accidents?

Winning the “war on drugs”?

Better accident prevention on roads?

An article on 24/7 Wallstreet states that “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more Americans aged 5–34 die from motor vehicle crashes than from any other single cause.”

MFambulance“Deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. vary widely. Twelve states averaged less than 10 deaths per 100,000 people per year during 2007 to 2009. Massachusetts had the lowest average yearly rate in the country of just 5.5 per 100,000 people. On the other end of the spectrum, 14 states had at least three times as many deaths per 100,000 people. Mississippi had close to five times that rate.” The article goes on to analyze what those 14 states have in common. Many have lax seatbelt laws, no laws about texting and driving, no booster seat requirements for children under 8,  and few or no laws about interlock systems for those convicted of drunk driving.

The article asserts that the states with high traffic accident fatalities could reduce them through enacting and enforcing some basic laws, but even in states that have enacted those laws, there are still traffic accidents. It seems that there will always be accidents, even in the best of circustances

The only way we might overcome accidents as a of death is through medical technology. In one of my favorite science fiction novels, Counting Heads, by David Marusek, one character is in an accident, but a safety helmet snips her head off and freezes it so her brain won’t die. Medical technology was then used to re-generate her body.  The author also imagined technologies such as nanobots inserted into the bodies injured in accidents that would repair the damage. Are we close to anything like that?

Image from morgeFile.com

Image from morgeFile.com

A recent article at Computer World.com quotes futurist Ray Kurzweil saying “The full realization of nanobots will basically eliminate biological disease and aging. I think we’ll see widespread use in 20 years of [nanotech] devices that perform certain functions for us. In 30 or 40 years, we will overcome disease and aging. The nanobots will scout out organs and cells that need repairs and simply fix them. It will lead to profound extensions of our health and longevity.”

The editor continues, “Of course, people will still be struck by lightning or hit by a bus, but much more trauma will be repairable. If nanobots swim in, or even replace, biological blood, then wounds could be healed almost instantly. Limbs could be regrown. Backed up memories and personalities could be accessed after a head trauma.”

Will we ever remove “Accident” as a cause of death on Death Certificates? No, but we may be able to make death certificates less common.

Sources:

Nanotech could make humans immortal by 2040, futurist says http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9138726/Nanotech_could_make_humans_immortal_by_2040_futurist_says

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