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Written Answers. - Death Statistics.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 168. Ms M. Wallace Information on Mary Wallace Zoom on Mary Wallace  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  the number of accidental deaths per year by paracetamol over dosage which occur here; if he has compared the Irish statistics to the equally deregulated USA and UK per head of population and the pharmacy restricted EU states such as France, Germany and so on; and his Department's views on the possible impact of deregulation on people at risk of suicide. [26841/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The cause of death statistics are compiled by the Central Statistics Office. These statistics indicate the principal medical cause of death. They also provide for an external cause of death where relevant. The following table 1 gives details of all deaths from 1997 to the 2nd quarter of 2002 with an external cause of accidental poisoning due to aromatic analgesics – ICD-9 Code E850.2, Acetanilid, paracetamol, phenacetin – the majority of which would be due to paracetamol poisoning.

[1558]Table 1

Number of Deaths with an External Cause of Accidental Death due to Poisoning by Aromatic Analgesics (ICD-9 code E850.2) 1997-2002 (1st and 2nd Quarter)

Year Deaths
1997 2
1998 0
1999 6
2000 1
2001 1
2002 (1st & 2nd Quarter) 1
Total 11*

*All but two of these cases have a principal cause of death due to poisoning from aromatic analgesics and thus Table 2 records only nine accidental deaths.

The coding of external cause is not compulsory and thus the data may not be complete. Another problem with recording cause of death due to accidental paracetamol poisoning is that it is not always possible to determine the intent of the person who took the paracetamol. The following table 2 gives details of all deaths from 1997 to the 2nd quarter of 2002 with a principal cause of death by poisoning from aromatic analgesics, ICD-9 code 965.4, and also gives details of external cause of death, that is accidental, intentional self-harm or undetermined. From this table it is evident that the majority of deaths are due to intentional self-harm but another 15.5% are undetermined.

Table 2

Number of Deaths with a Principal Cause of Death due to Poisoning from Aromatic Analgesics (ICD-9 code 965.4) and the Associated External Cause 1997 to 2002 (1st and 2nd Quarter)

Accidental(E850.2) IntentionalSelf-Harm(E950) Undetermined(E980) Total
1997 2 4 2 8
1998 0 7 1 8
1999 5 6 4 15
2000 1 10 1 12
2001 0 9 1 10
2002 1 4 0 5
Total 9 40 9 58
Percent 15.5 69.0 15.5 100

The Department has not compared Irish statistics with those of other countries. With regard to deregulation, which presumably refers to pharmacies, the impact is neutral.

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