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Lancet Fails Elementary Statistics 
13th-Oct-2006 10:45 am
Inspiration
Once again, as they did in 2004, the Lancet has rushed out a pre-"US election" study to wildly exaggerate the extent of Iraqi deaths attributable to the war, and, once again, they have utterly failed to note separately those Iraqis killed in battle, in terrorist attack, and on the other side. I note that the United Nations previously attempted to correct the prior study, to deafening silence. This one, which claims a significantly higher number with a pathetically large confidence interval (like the first one), is a waste of paper. Links to further critiques here.

My favorite:

Nice study. Did they also conclude that 9/11 was a hoax, 3 Jews died in the holocaust, and Democrats would win the November elections?

UPDATE: also check out this rebuttal, quite well done:

According to the article, 80% of the deaths identified in the survey were confirmed by the presence of a death certificate. That's a good thing. That helps A) to make sure that some deaths aren't counted multiple times as being misremembered members of multiple households, B) to establish time of death, and C) to help determine cause of death, among other things.


But here's my question: If there's a death certificate, doesn't that make it an officially recorded death? That is (I'm assuming and asking), if the head of household has a copy of the death certificate, wasn't another one filed at the appropriate administrative office, by whoever made out the certificate? If this is the case, why doesn't it end up on the official Iraqi government death toll tally?


OK, I can think of several reasons why that might not happen. But the record should still be available locally. So wouldn't it have been/be a good check on the survey to contact the local administrative office, look at the death certificates there, and see whether the actual numbers at the administrative office come within the expected 20% of the projected numbers from the survey of 40 households?


I'll grant that that might not be possible on a larger scale, or in every situation, but there's something troubling about a survey that claims to have discovered hundreds of thousands of unreported deaths, by looking past official channels, yet that also claims that 80% of those deaths that it discovered have official death certificates (so clearly were not unreported.) Again, I understand that in some individual circumstances, administrative corruption or confusion might not make this possible, but you'd think it would make sense to double-check this where possible.



The Iraq Body count also has some cogent comments.

LATEST UPDATE:A reminder that even professional pollsters are shocked by the shoddy work The conclusion, ladies and gentlemen? Take the Lancet with a grain of salt, run your own chi-square test to see if it's even worth pursuing, and always check the sampling technique.
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