Doctors vs. Guns .. Statistics


March 18, 2004, 12:20 PM
Think about this:

a. The number of physicians in the US is 700,000.
b. Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year is 120,000.
c. Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171. (US Dept. of Health &
Human Services)

Then think about this:

a. The number of gun owners in the US is 80,000,000.
b. The number of accidental gun deaths per year is 1,500.
c. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner 0.0000188.

Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous
than gun owners.


Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors
before this gets out of hand.

As a public health measure, I have withheld the statistics on lawyers
for fear that the shock could cause people to seek medical attention.

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March 18, 2004, 12:44 PM
Interesting, but I would suggest that you should recalculate with homicides and the like as well, both for doctors and guns. Otherwise its rather easy to argue the statistic is meaningless. A doctor isn't meant to kill, a gun generally is.


March 18, 2004, 12:54 PM
I believe that even including homocide, gun deaths are less than 120,000 annually.

March 18, 2004, 01:20 PM
I believe that even including homocide, gun deaths are less than 120,000 annually. I think the statistic would still look pretty good, and it wouldn't be so easy to dismiss.

Daniel T
March 18, 2004, 03:18 PM
I've seen these numbers a dozen times on this board. Where are they from? Saying the "US Dept. of Health & Human Services" is totally meaningless unless these numbers have been published by that agency and can be accessed. Do you have a link to a real .gov site where we can get these numbers ourselves?

March 18, 2004, 03:56 PM
link to
120k might be low

edited to fix link -- pax

March 18, 2004, 04:14 PM
Hmmmm, I don't know where the accidental deaths caused by physicians number comes from, but it seems rather fishy.

According to the CDC's preliminary report on causes of death for 2002, there were a total of 102,303 deaths classified as accidental (unintentional injuries). There is no indicator in the report for accidental deaths "caused" by physicians. The closest available data is "complications of medical or surgical care" for which the number in 2002 was 2,820, down from 3,021 in 2001.

Now, the number of deaths due to the accidental discharge of firearms was 813, up from 802 in 2001.

Again, according to the CDC, there were 652,328 non-federal doctors of medicine involved in patient care in the US in 2001. With a quick, pseudo-scientific interpolation done in my head, I'll guesstimate the number of doctors in 2002 at around 663,000.

No reliable numbers are available for gun owners in the US. I've seen it estimated at between 50,000,000 and 80,000,000. I'll take the middle and put it at 65,000,000.

So, let's do the math: 2,820 deaths per 663,000 doctors = 0.0043 = .43%

813 deaths per 65,000,000 gun owners = 0.000013 = .0013%

Thus, the accidental death rate for doctors is approximately 330 times higher than the accidental death rate for gun owners.

Of note is the fact that among accidental deaths, firearms are at the bottom of the list by far. 44,572 were caused by car accidents, 15,848 were due to falls, 3,399 were drownings, 14,670 were poisonings and 3,024 were due to smoke, fire or flames. Another 17,070 are classified as "other." So, technically, firearms are the lowest categorized cause of accidental deaths.

Here's a breakdown on other firearms related deaths:

16,882 of the 30,646 suicides in 2002 were carried out with firearms (55.1%).
11,546 of the 17,045 homicides in 2002 were done with firearms (67.7%).
214 deaths that resulted from the discharge of firearms were the result of "undetermined intent."

So, back to the question of total firearm related deaths per the gun owning population. There were 29,455 "gun deaths" in the US in 2002. 29,455 deaths per the 65,000,000 gun owners = 0.00045 = .045%. Still about ten times lower than the accidental rate for doctors.

For now, I'll leave off any commentary on the comparability of the data and factors surrounding complications of medical care, but if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to expand.

Sorry for the long and convoluted statistical speak, it's a byproduct of the day job and I just can't get rid of it.

Best wishes,
Your Statistician In Residence

March 18, 2004, 04:14 PM
Idea: Howzabout making me a moderator, and we can create a "tired stuff that we've seen before" area, and I'll move all this stuff to it.

Oh, wait a minute... That'd be most posts...

Yeah, I've got a bad attitude.

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