Medicine: The Short Form

The World Health Organization recognizes 999 different categories of diseases, injuries and causes of death, including 125 methods of suicide. But in those parts of the world that are not used to statistics, tabulating figures on who died of what has proved difficult. What good, for instance, is a death certificate written on the bark of a baobab tree along a branch of the upper Zambezi? So WHO decided that what it needed was something like the U.S. income-tax collector's 1040-A—a short form that nobody can gum up.

In Paris, 50 delegates from all over the world met to seek uniform...

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