Updated: 5/16/2006; 11:30:05 AM.

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daily link  Thursday, January 22, 2004

Yesterday, They Would Have Died: Why were murder rates going down? "[Dr. Anthony] Harris had an epiphany: The United States was at least as violent as ever; it's just that fewer people were dying.

Harris spent the next few years testing his theory, and last year he published his findings in an academic journal called Homicide Studies, in which he concluded, in essence, that trauma care had improved dramatically in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when doctors came home trained to handle the worst of injuries. More importantly, every day since then doctors have been constantly testing and perfecting diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, aided by increasingly remarkable advances in technology. In the mid-'80s they lucked into CT machines, capable of taking 3-D images of soft body tissues; now they can capture art-like pictures of the entire body in seconds. Ultrasound machines, used to visualize abdominal injuries, are no bigger than a beer cooler and can be moved instantly from station to station. Artificial blood is on the way. So is a unique type of bandage that can be slapped on a lacerated liver to stop it from bleeding immediately.

The pace of technological progress in the field is such that crime victims of a decade ago were victims too of bad timing: Their chances of living would have enormously improved if they'd had the good fortune to suffer their misfortune today. Harris's statistics on the subject are staggering. He determined that without advances in emergency response and trauma care there would have been 45,000 to 70,000 homicides each year for the past five years instead of 15,000 to 20,000. Back in 1964, 17 percent of assaults were with a gun, and 16 percent of those were fatal. In 1999, the year Ferguson was stabbed, 19 percent of assaults were with a gun, yet only 5 percent were fatal. "  2:53:20 PM  permalink  


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Last update: 5/16/2006; 11:30:05 AM.