Monday, December 24, 2018

To Support Putin’s Claims, Russian Health Officials have Been Falsifying Death Statistics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 23 – To support Vladimir Putin’s claims about progress on extending life expectancy among Russians, health officials in his country have been falsifying the cause of death in so many cases that now even senior officials like Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova have been forced to acknowledge the distortions.

            She, of course, blames doctors and hospitals for “incorrectly coding” the cause of deaths; but in fact, the problem is systemic – and the figures were changed on orders from the top down so that Putin’s claims about cutting deaths from certain causes might appear to be true ( and

            In order to push down deaths from cardio-vascular disease and cancer, Russian health care officials have been reporting that people in that country are dying not from those disease but from “old age” and “’other causes,’” since at least 2008, categories that officials now concede hide the real causes -- cardio-vascular diseases and cancer.

            The changes as a result of falsification have been large, experts say. In 2008, for example, 57 percent of deaths were blamed on cardio-vascular disease; but in 2017, only 47 percent – figures that appear to back up Putin’s May 2012 program but that in fact are the result of manipulation.

            Larisa Popovich, head of the Institute of the Economics of Health Care at the Higher School of Economics, says that there is clear evidence that the figures are being falsified by officials in order to try to provide evidence that Putin’s initiatives are working and to bring the percentages of cause of death in all regions closer to “planned” levels.

            “In a significant number of oblasts where death rates from cancer were lower than the average figures the health ministry had planned, they began to be raised; but where they were above those figures, they began to be lowered,” she says. This is a clear indication of “very active manipulation” of health figures by the authorities.

            Popovich adds that it will be hard to root this out because those responsible for the figures are subordinate to those who report them to the president and because health care officials in some areas ship patients about to die to others in the name of curing them but in fact in order to improve their own statistics.

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