The individuals who appear in this study were included because they were declared as homeless by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office when their bodies were brought into the morgue. The Coroner’s office considers persons homeless if they did not have a home address at the time of their death. If the Coroner is able to contact the deceased’s next of kin, their homeless status remains on record.
LACEH&H did an initial analysis of the causes of death and then consulted with the Homeless Liaisons for the Los Angeles Departments of Health Services and Public Health, given that they were conducting a one year study based not only on the Coroner’s report but also the death certificates. They indicated that our figures were higher than their initial findings in cardiac related deaths and lower than their findings in drug related deaths. They also encouraged us to utilize the classification scheme used in the Seattle-Kings County study which we did.
LACEH&H then recruited a physician that works in a local shelter to re-analyze our initial findings related to causes of death and use the Seattle classification scheme. Nevertheless, the analysis which is presented in this report most likely undercounts the drug related deaths. The disclaimer for our study is that without access to official death certificates it is difficult to generate accurate numbers regarding deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. Undoubtedly in some cases where the cause of the death is categorized as cardiovascular disease, the condition was caused by alcohol and/or substance use. Ultimately, access to the official death certificates would have provided the primary underlying cause of death in these cases.
Nevertheless, despite this limitation, Dying Without Dignity paints a tragic picture of seven years of 2,815 lives cut drastically, and unnecessarily, short by the fact that they were homeless.
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