Posted by: Lister | March 26, 2007

The Lancet Iraq death survey

A BBC news story says that the UK government was adviced not to criticise the Lancet report which claimed about 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war. The UK, US and Iraqi governments all reckon the death toll is about 60,000.

One of the criticisms, attributed to Dr Michael Spagat, is “that most of those questioned lived on main streets which are more likely to suffer from car bombs.”

But “The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.”

[…] The Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser said the survey’s methods were “close to best practice” and the study design was “robust”.

Another expert agreed the method was “tried and tested”.

[…] The researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people.

In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.

[…] President Bush said: “I don’t consider it a credible report.” [Blair said similar]

But a memo by the MoD’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: “The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to “best practice” in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq.”

[…] Some scientists have subsequently challenged the validity of the Lancet study. Questions have been asked about the survey techniques and the possibility of “mainstreet bias”.

[…] If the Lancet survey is right, then 2.5% of the Iraqi population – an average of more than 500 people a day – have been killed since the start of the war.



  1. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, at the Guardian’s comment is free. He compares Bush/Blair, etc who didn’t like the report to:

    Scientists at the UK’s Department for International Development thought differently. They concluded that the study’s methods were “tried and tested”. Indeed, the Hopkins approach would likely lead to an “underestimation of mortality”.

    […] At a time when we are celebrating our enlightened abolition of slavery 200 years ago, we are continuing to commit one of the worst international abuses of human rights of the past half-century. It is inexplicable how we allowed this to happen. It is inexplicable why we are not demanding this government’s mass resignation.

    Two hundred years from now, the Iraq war will be mourned as the moment when Britain violated its delicate democratic constitution and joined the ranks of nations that use extreme pre-emptive killing as a tactic of foreign policy. Some anniversary that will be.

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