I was perusing the 2010 National Vital Statistics Report this weekend when I started to wonder about the letters and numbers that are listed after each cause of death: for example, syphilis (A50 – A53), or accidental drowning and submersion (W65 – W74).
These numbers turn out to reference the ICD-10-CM, which is the United States Clinically Modified version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision. Published by the World Health Organization and begun in 1983 to replace the ICD-9, the ICD-10 is a classification system designed to track mortality and health statistics in a way that creates statistical comparability between countries.
What this means, essentially, is that the WHO has published a list of all the ways that it can think of to die. A very cursory read-through of the ICD-10-CM opened this particular neurotic’s eyes to new and various ways to die that I, frankly, had never really considered.
For example, there are different codes for morbidity as a result of contact with hot drinks (X10.0) versus contact with hot food (X10.1) versus contact with fats and cooking oils (X10.2). Note: morbidity as a result of contact with hot drinks is not the same as morbidity as a result of contact with hot tap water (X11) even if, like me, you drink tap water.
You can die from falling out of a grocery cart (W17.82).
Apparently, you can be bitten to death by squirrels (W53.21).
There is a code for morbidity as a result of contact with non-venomous plant thorns and spines and sharp leaves (sharp leaves!) (W60), which sounds like a slow and excruciating, if perhaps effortful, death.
Crocodiles and alligators can kill you by biting you (W58.01), striking you (W58.02), crushing you (W58.03), or via “other contact” (W58.09).
Somehow, you can die from contact with a non-venomous frog (W62.0) – maybe from choking on it?
You can burn to death from a fire while on water skis (V91.07).
Horrifyingly, you can die from the effects (unspecified and therefore more frightening) of a foreign body in the auditory canal (T16).
There are more, many more; Wikipedia informs me that the ICD-10-CM enumerates some 68,000 morbidity codes, and once I start clicking through, I find myself nearly unable to stop. I’m going to pull myself away now, and wander back out into the world, avoiding for as long as possible any of 68,000 ways to die.