The government counted 1,966 deaths of hospitalized Medicare patients, then reported the number of deaths in each hospital, both over all and in several categories of illness.

It then compared each hospital's death rates -- the percentages of patients who died -- with a "predicted" rate based on a comparison with national averages and some of the characteristics of that hospital's patients.

Hospitals with high death rates generally said they were caused either by sicker patients or, in some cases, discrepancies in statistics. Taking those objections into account, government officials said the results should not be used by consumers to judge any hospital as "bad" or "good," only to ask questions of doctors.

What follows is a list of: :: "Highest" death rates (more deaths than predicted), :: "High" rates (in the upper fifth of the predicted range), :: "Low" rates (in the lowest fifth of the predicted range), :: and "Lowest" rates (fewer deaths than predicted) for major Washington area hospitals. Categories where fewer than 30 patients were treated are excluded: Overall death rates for all Medicare patients Highest: D.C. General. High: Shady Grove Adventist, Southern Maryland. Low: George Washington University, Georgetown University, Providence, Sibley, Washington Hospital Center, Johns Hopkins, Jefferson Memorial, Mount Vernon. Lowest: Columbia Hospital for Women, Reston Medical Center. Cancer Highest: Mary Washington. High: D.C. General, Loudon. Low: Georgetown, Holy Cross, Prince George's General, Suburban. Lowest: Hopkins, Sibley. Stroke High: Greater Southeast, Anne Arundel General. Low: Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Washington Hospital Center, Holy Cross, Fair Oaks. Lowest: George Washington, Howard University, Sibley, Howard County General, Hopkins, Suburban, Washington Adventist, Prince William. GI (gastrointestinal) catastrophes (intestinal obstructions, hemorrhage, peritonitis or infection, etc.) Low: Providence, Sibley, Howard County, Hopkins, Washington Adventist, Washington County. Severe chronic heart disease (mainly heart failure, meaning inability to pump enough blood) Highest: Southern Maryland. High: Shady Grove. Low: D.C. General, Georgetown, Howard, Washington Hospital Center, Greater Laurel, Holy Cross, Prince George's, Jefferson. Lowest: Capitol Hill, George Washington, Providence, Washington Adventist, Mount Vernon. Severe acute heart disease (mainly acute myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks) High: Montgomery General, Fair Oaks. Low: George Washington, Howard, Providence, Sibley, Washington Hospital Center, Greater Laurel, Suburban, Alexandria, Arlington, Northern Virginia Doctors. Lowest: Georgetown. Metabolic and electrolyte disturbances (diabetes, dehydration, imbalances in body chemistry) High: D.C. General, Holy Cross, Arlington. Low: Hopkins, Suburban, Washington Adventist, Washington County, Alexandria, Fairfax. Lowest: Howard. Pulmonary disease (mainly pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema) Highest: D.C. General. High: Holy Cross, Prince George's, Prince William. Low: Sibley, AMI Doctors, Jefferson, Loudon, Potomac. Lowest: Providence, Mount Vernon. Renal (kidney) disease: Low: Greater Southeast, Washington Hospital Center. Severe trauma (including broken hips and other accidents, severe burns) Low: Georgetown, Sibley, Holy Cross, Shady Grove, Suburban, Washington County, Arlington, Fairfax. Lowest: National Orthopedic.