What-if 0027: "Death Rates"

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Eutychus
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What-if 0027: "Death Rates"

Postby Eutychus » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:16 am UTC

http://what-if.xkcd.com/27/

What a cheerful way to kick off the new year! Or is this some new scheme for winning one of those traditional celebrity death pool contests?
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby wolfticket » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:35 am UTC

One wonders whether the arbitrary nature of the one death per second across all age ranges would have a greater effect on population growth than normal deaths, which presumably are generally skewed massively towards people who have already passed through childbearing age. Would this not lower birth rates as well?

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby taemyr » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:48 am UTC

wolfticket wrote:One wonders whether the arbitrary nature of the one death per second across all age ranges would have a greater effect on population growth than normal deaths, which presumably are generally skewed massively towards people who have already passed through childbearing age. Would this not lower birth rates as well?


Somewhat. But the perception that you could just suddenly drop dead could increase birth rate. And if I where to guess the net effect would have been a massive increase in birth rates, by far more than 4.6 new births/year.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby ijuin » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:52 am UTC

It would, but then there would also be the social/psychological effects of these random deaths--when the death rate is high for infants/children/anybody too young for childbearing, then those people who do survive will tend to have more children so as to be certain that at least some of them will survive.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby zzyss » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:23 am UTC

Did it occur to anybody else that the 7% of unobserved human deaths sets an upper bound for the population of, say, vampires?

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Half-Borg » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:33 am UTC

I understand that, they are not unobserved, these people are just not dead yet.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Klear » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:39 am UTC

zzyss wrote:Did it occur to anybody else that the 7% of unobserved human deaths sets an upper bound for the population of, say, vampires?


Vampires all died out thanks to AIDS.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Thorbard9 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:45 am UTC

One thing that wasn't taken into account is the fact that people dying in certain circumstances will kill others shortly after their own death, for example a person driving a car at speed may crash into a solid object, killing those travelling in the car with them, or may crash into another vehicle. In heavy traffic, it could result in a multiple vehicle collision and 30+ deaths, just from one "random" death. Likewise, the surgeons dying during surgery could result in the loss of the life of the patient. Presumably other careers would be similarly effected.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby taemyr » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:53 am UTC

zzyss wrote:Did it occur to anybody else that the 7% of unobserved human deaths sets an upper bound for the population of, say, vampires?


I think you are misreading what does 7% are. To clarify; Roughly 7% of all humans that have ever lived, have not died. Ie. they are still alive.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby zzyss » Tue Jan 08, 2013 11:40 am UTC

taemyr wrote:I think you are misreading what does 7% are. To clarify; Roughly 7% of all humans that have ever lived, have not died. Ie. they are still alive.


Possibly, but the statement immediately preceding that figure was "And really, in the end, the global death rate is 100%—everyone dies … or do they?" Anyway, it was just an errant remark.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby pduthie » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:53 pm UTC

Is it really bad that I got to the end, thought "2 living Beatles? I know George died so that's just Paul left" and needed Wikipedia to remind of the continued of existence of Ringo.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Zinho » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:09 pm UTC

Thorbard9 wrote:One thing that wasn't taken into account is the fact that people dying in certain circumstances will kill others shortly after their own death, for example a person driving a car at speed may crash into a solid object, killing those travelling in the car with them, or may crash into another vehicle. In heavy traffic, it could result in a multiple vehicle collision and 30+ deaths, just from one "random" death. Likewise, the surgeons dying during surgery could result in the loss of the life of the patient. Presumably other careers would be similarly effected.

Are we reading the same article? The version I read clearly mentions both driving and surgery, with passengers, other travelers, and patients as collateral damage; it's in the paragraphs between the line graph and the tombstone. I was under the impression that Randall didn't edit things based on forum comments; if it were me I certainly wouldn't be reading the forum at 4AM just to see if my readers spotted a proofreading mistake.

Of course, you could just be trolling. In which case, I have lost, and I'll have a nice day.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby zaphodbeebledoc » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:27 pm UTC

What I think should be answered is which Beatle is which... It can't be in the order, John, Paul, George and Ringo for obvious reasons.
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby krabcat » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:12 pm UTC

i was kind of expecting an estimation[assuming nothing else changes] of when population would stop growing and start shrinking with this and possibly at what population point we would have to get up to for it to never get to negative population growth

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby tibfulv » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:20 pm UTC

zaphodbeebledoc wrote:What I think should be answered is which Beatle is which... It can't be in the order, John, Paul, George and Ringo for obvious reasons.


Given that we know which two Beatles are dead, and in which order they died, we know that Lennon and Harrison are marked with X's. The order is indeterminate, but we might glean some information from the convention that X's are generally marked in order of death. Therefore, the highest probability can be assigned to the permutation Lennon, Harrison. As for the other two, It could be any number of orderings: alphabetical, age, random, or convention. Since convention is probably the strongest, and McCartney is generally considered the most important (together with Lennon) of the Beatles, him being first has the highest likelihood. Therefore the order with the highest probability is this:

Lennon, Harrison, McCartney, Starr.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby cellocgw » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:27 pm UTC

zaphodbeebledoc wrote:What I think should be answered is which Beatle is which... It can't be in the order, John, Paul, George and Ringo for obvious reasons.

Actually it's a significant fail, since Pete Best is alive (I think) and Stu Sutcliffe is dead, which makes it 3 out of 6.
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Angelastic » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:47 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Actually it's a significant fail, since Pete Best is alive (I think) and Stu Sutcliffe is dead, which makes it 3 out of 6.

It's still 50%. If we're going to care about sample size, we should maybe wait until there have been 100 billion Beatles and then reexamine the statistics. I hope they change their musical style occasionally; variety is the spice of almost-certain death.
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby airdrik » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:10 pm UTC

Well I'm not dead yet, so my death rate is still 0%
As for the rest of you, well if you are here reading this then your death rate is also 0%, so let's go out and celebrate that we've made it further than the other 93% of the population whose death rate is 100%

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby mathmannix » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:11 pm UTC

zaphodbeebledoc wrote:What I think should be answered is which Beatle is which... It can't be in the order, John, Paul, George and Ringo for obvious reasons.


They're probably in alphabetical order - which, interestingly enough, is the same if you are looking at first or last names.

Edit: but not middle names (I just had to check!) - or birth certificate first names (John, James, George, Richard.)
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby mcdigman » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:22 pm UTC

Wait, so if we apply frequentist reasoning with no priors, with p = 0.07, we are unable to reject the null hypothesis that there is no significant association between birth and death.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby JimJ » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:27 pm UTC

I too wanted to see the calculations showing the expected population size that would neither increase nor decrease unless people changed their behavior; I'm willing to ignore collateral deaths from inconveniently timed selections.

I would prefer that the death and reproduction functions be modeled more carefully:

(1) Someone who died because Guy played at dice would no longer be around to die the next day in a car crash, so the as-is death rates would fall slightly. (This would make the Hand of Guy seem even more dreadful, in terms of percentage-of-deaths attributed.)

(2) Fertility rates are better measured in terms of women aged xx-yy, rather than full population. As such, "the same" fertility rate and population size can lead to very different birth rates, if the age or sex distributions change. The "at random" selection (without a named weighting) would clearly change the age distribution; it would probably also change the sex ratio, though perhaps not significantly among those of reproductive age.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby peewee_RotA » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:32 pm UTC

zaphodbeebledoc wrote:What I think should be answered is which Beatle is which... It can't be in the order, John, Paul, George and Ringo for obvious reasons.


Everyone knows Paul died first.
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Eutychus » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:34 pm UTC

I've been waiting for most of the day here for somebody to point that out.
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Davo » Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:30 pm UTC

Surely a small, but significant, number of the one-per-second extra deaths will be pregnant women? This violates the one-per-second rule, so would those who are pregnant be subject to exemption, at least for the nine months?

If this were the case, how would the exemption weigh up against the increased risks that pregancy brings?

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby keithl » Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:04 pm UTC

In "Whole Earth Discipline", Stewart Brand points out that urban populations have always had below-replacement birth rates, and that 80 percent of us will live in cities by 2040. So although the world population will keep climbing until the latter half of this century, it is expected to drop after that.

Assuming birth rates do not adjust, the Guy Petzall scenario will begin the drop sooner, and the drop will accelerate downwards faster. In a few centuries, the 1 per second death rate will exceed the birth rate, and humans will soon disappear.

I'm not a dogmatic proponent of gun control, but to save humanity we should strip Guy Petzall of all weapons. Just in case.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Thorbard9 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:48 pm UTC

Zinho wrote:
Thorbard9 wrote:One thing that wasn't taken into account is the fact that people dying in certain circumstances will kill others shortly after their own death, for example a person driving a car at speed may crash into a solid object, killing those travelling in the car with them, or may crash into another vehicle. In heavy traffic, it could result in a multiple vehicle collision and 30+ deaths, just from one "random" death. Likewise, the surgeons dying during surgery could result in the loss of the life of the patient. Presumably other careers would be similarly effected.

Are we reading the same article? The version I read clearly mentions both driving and surgery, with passengers, other travelers, and patients as collateral damage; it's in the paragraphs between the line graph and the tombstone. I was under the impression that Randall didn't edit things based on forum comments; if it were me I certainly wouldn't be reading the forum at 4AM just to see if my readers spotted a proofreading mistake.

Of course, you could just be trolling. In which case, I have lost, and I'll have a nice day.


Not trolling and not incorrect: The quoted deaths of passengers, travellers, pedestrians and patients are those due to the same random statistics killing the drivers and the surgeons. It doesn't take into account that a driver dropping dead while driving at 70mph is going to plough into something.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Moose Anus » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:04 pm UTC

Thorbard9 wrote:
Zinho wrote:
Thorbard9 wrote:One thing that wasn't taken into account is the fact that people dying in certain circumstances will kill others shortly after their own death, for example a person driving a car at speed may crash into a solid object, killing those travelling in the car with them, or may crash into another vehicle. In heavy traffic, it could result in a multiple vehicle collision and 30+ deaths, just from one "random" death. Likewise, the surgeons dying during surgery could result in the loss of the life of the patient. Presumably other careers would be similarly effected.

Are we reading the same article? The version I read clearly mentions both driving and surgery, with passengers, other travelers, and patients as collateral damage; it's in the paragraphs between the line graph and the tombstone. I was under the impression that Randall didn't edit things based on forum comments; if it were me I certainly wouldn't be reading the forum at 4AM just to see if my readers spotted a proofreading mistake.

Of course, you could just be trolling. In which case, I have lost, and I'll have a nice day.


Not trolling and not incorrect: The quoted deaths of passengers, travellers, pedestrians and patients are those due to the same random statistics killing the drivers and the surgeons. It doesn't take into account that a driver dropping dead while driving at 70mph is going to plough into something.
whatif wrote:(plus a smaller but still significant number of passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers)
One thing he doesn't mention is what about surgery patients who are currently driving at 70mph and their surgeon dies?
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Xeio » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:21 pm UTC

Davo wrote:Surely a small, but significant, number of the one-per-second extra deaths will be pregnant women? This violates the one-per-second rule, so would those who are pregnant be subject to exemption, at least for the nine months?
You'd just need to account for it in a marginally reduced birthrate.

I can't find any information on whether or not a pregnant woman who dies is normally counted as two deaths. If so, then you can just wait an extra second to kill a pregnant woman. :wink:

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Thorbard9 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:45 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:
Thorbard9 wrote:
Zinho wrote:
Thorbard9 wrote:One thing that wasn't taken into account is the fact that people dying in certain circumstances will kill others shortly after their own death, for example a person driving a car at speed may crash into a solid object, killing those travelling in the car with them, or may crash into another vehicle. In heavy traffic, it could result in a multiple vehicle collision and 30+ deaths, just from one "random" death. Likewise, the surgeons dying during surgery could result in the loss of the life of the patient. Presumably other careers would be similarly effected.

Are we reading the same article? The version I read clearly mentions both driving and surgery, with passengers, other travelers, and patients as collateral damage; it's in the paragraphs between the line graph and the tombstone. I was under the impression that Randall didn't edit things based on forum comments; if it were me I certainly wouldn't be reading the forum at 4AM just to see if my readers spotted a proofreading mistake.

Of course, you could just be trolling. In which case, I have lost, and I'll have a nice day.


Not trolling and not incorrect: The quoted deaths of passengers, travellers, pedestrians and patients are those due to the same random statistics killing the drivers and the surgeons. It doesn't take into account that a driver dropping dead while driving at 70mph is going to plough into something.
whatif wrote:(plus a smaller but still significant number of passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers)
One thing he doesn't mention is what about surgery patients who are currently driving at 70mph and their surgeon dies?


I guess I'm not explaining myself well enough.

The scenario states that, at random one person dies every second (1.0 per second), in addition to those that would normally die of other circumstances (1.8 per second).

Using the surgery as an example, 13 surgeons per year die while performing surgery. In addition 13 patients die while being operated on. These aren't necessarily the same 13 surgeries out of 50 million, and statistically it would be unlikely that they were the same surgeries.

The what if does not discuss what happens to the patients who's surgeon randomly dropped dead. My point is that the random people dropping dead seem likely to cause an increase in death rate beyond the initial 1.0 per second, much the same as higher death rates in general encourage higher birth rates.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby ManaUser » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:52 pm UTC

Davo wrote:Surely a small, but significant, number of the one-per-second extra deaths will be pregnant women? This violates the one-per-second rule, so would those who are pregnant be subject to exemption, at least for the nine months?

Assuming the unborn count at all for this, that would just be another collateral damage scenario like the drivers or surgeons. And even if the fetus counted as part of the one-per-second rate for some reason, this wouldn't break the rules because it would live a few minutes longer.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby paddyfool » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:45 pm UTC

Pet suggestion on this topic:

Pull up a clock or stopwatch which displays seconds ticking by, such as this one.

Tap a finger of your left hand on the desk with each passing second. That's the death rate we're talking about.

Now double that speed. That's the current death rate* (2 per second). Also the current population growth rate*.

Now, with your right hand, start tapping the desk at double the speed again. Now your left is approximately beating out the deaths, while the right is approximately beating out the births* (4 per second).

Ah, but you say: you're only doing this to 1 significant figure (2 and 4 per second), while Randy quoted 2 significant figures.

No problem. For greater accuracy, if you have the skill, simply miss out every 10th beat with your left hand, and throw in a grace note with your right hand every 20 beats. (You can even do both of these at about the same time if you like).

You're now jamming to the beat* of the world. You're welcome.

* (approximate mean)
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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby mcdigman » Tue Jan 08, 2013 11:30 pm UTC

So, a randomly selected person has approximately a 1.5% chance of having a baby in a given 9 month period, and a 0.348% chance of dying over the same period, so .0068% of people will die while pregnant in any given period, which means that the birth rate is not noticeably impacted. The chance of the newborn reaching the age of 18 (given that nearly all deaths in this age group are caused by this policy) is 92%, and the chance of someone who has reached the age of 18 surviving till 100 (ignoring other death) is 90%. The chance of the randomly selected person having a baby during those 100 years is about 86%, and their chance of dying while pregnant is about 0.9%, so the average person will have 0.009 less children in a 100 year period due to this policy.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Klear » Tue Jan 08, 2013 11:54 pm UTC

Thorbard9 wrote:I guess I'm not explaining myself well enough.

The scenario states that, at random one person dies every second (1.0 per second), in addition to those that would normally die of other circumstances (1.8 per second).

Using the surgery as an example, 13 surgeons per year die while performing surgery. In addition 13 patients die while being operated on. These aren't necessarily the same 13 surgeries out of 50 million, and statistically it would be unlikely that they were the same surgeries.

The what if does not discuss what happens to the patients who's surgeon randomly dropped dead. My point is that the random people dropping dead seem likely to cause an increase in death rate beyond the initial 1.0 per second, much the same as higher death rates in general encourage higher birth rates.


Oh yeah, I get what you're saying - the odds of a surgeon dying during the surgery due to the Guy Petzall lottery is the same as the odds of the patient dying because of it. The point is the collateral damage in this case is not at all significant - compare 13 surgeries a year with 127 people dying in a car every day, not counting the collateral damage and only counting USA in this case. The surgeons are like a spit in the ocean.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby phlip » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:35 am UTC

Thorbard9 wrote:The what if does not discuss what happens to the patients who's surgeon randomly dropped dead. My point is that the random people dropping dead seem likely to cause an increase in death rate beyond the initial 1.0 per second, much the same as higher death rates in general encourage higher birth rates.


No, that's exactly what that section is talking about. Note for example that it's immediately after talking about how a pilot dying mid-flight won't necessarily cause extra flow-on deaths of the passeners as the plane still probably won't crash. He's then going on to touch on exactly what you're saying he should have - that drivers dying while driving will cause "a smaller but still significant number of passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers" (note that the "other drivers" clause wouldn't make sense if he was just talking about other deaths directly caused by the 1-per-second deal). Similarly, the 13 surgeons dying during surgery will cause the deaths of "13 extra patients"... extra as in on top of the ones that would die directly by being randomly chosen.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby teelo » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:17 am UTC

Heeeeeey baby, did you hear about Guy's Deaths? Yeah. We'd better help bring the population back up by reproducing.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby Dr_Revels » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:20 am UTC

Another sticking point: Randall chose the CDC statistic on OUTPATIENT surgeries performed each year. Most patients won't die if their doctor falls over while giving them a colonoscopy.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby ijuin » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:20 am UTC

Xeio wrote:
Davo wrote:Surely a small, but significant, number of the one-per-second extra deaths will be pregnant women? This violates the one-per-second rule, so would those who are pregnant be subject to exemption, at least for the nine months?
You'd just need to account for it in a marginally reduced birthrate.

I can't find any information on whether or not a pregnant woman who dies is normally counted as two deaths. If so, then you can just wait an extra second to kill a pregnant woman. :wink:

I don't know about in Randall's scenario, but in some states, killing a woman whom you know to be pregnant is regarded as two counts of homicide.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby MrT2 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:47 am UTC

ijuin wrote:I don't know about in Randall's scenario, but in some states, killing a woman whom you know to be pregnant is regarded as two counts of homicide.

In the UK, a stillbirth has to be registered as both a birth and death (and so goes into the population statistics), while a miscarriage is not registered. Opposing that, I'm sure it's quite common in many countries for an attack on a mother that results in the death of the unborn child to be considered murder, even when the mother survives, because the assumption has to be made that the child would have survived otherwise.

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:45 pm UTC

MrT2 wrote:
ijuin wrote:I don't know about in Randall's scenario, but in some states, killing a woman whom you know to be pregnant is regarded as two counts of homicide.

In the UK, a stillbirth has to be registered as both a birth and death (and so goes into the population statistics), while a miscarriage is not registered. Opposing that, I'm sure it's quite common in many countries for an attack on a mother that results in the death of the unborn child to be considered murder, even when the mother survives, because the assumption has to be made that the child would have survived otherwise.


Biblically, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" was originally laid down (along with a couple of other instances) as the punishment for injuring a pregnant woman and causing her to miscarry - any further injuries beyond the basic miscarriage are to be matched on the perpetrator - eye for eye and tooth for tooth (or equivalent material damages).

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Re: What-if 0027: Death Rates

Postby thevicente » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:42 pm UTC

The counting of pregnant women, or better, the consequent death of the unborn/fetus/embryo/wtv in the world population is as complicated as the abortion debate, because it's about the same thing.

Also, considering the other extreme of the pregnancy duration, if someone dies during the sex act there was a chance the partner die too of fear, or be scarred for life never wanting to have sex again, thus affecting further the fertilty rate, etc


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