Yes, deadlifts are one of those exercises that can result in an acute injury like a bulged or ruptured disc.
There are safer routes to go, you have trap bar deadlifts which provide a more efficient pulling position. By standing, surrounded by the weight due to the shape of the bar, your center of mass is literally tracking directly with the center of mass of the bar. It is easier to keep your spine in its weight-bearing position, which is safer compared to the straight barbell version.
You also can do single leg deadlifts. The potential of injury is decreased simply because the weight you use is less and because these are hard to do with poor form. Not only do you have to derive strength from just one leg, you also have the increased proprioceptive demands from standing unilaterally. The training benefit is just as important, or perhaps even more, than a traditional bilateral deadlift.
However, I think most people can have long lifting careers with the deadlift as long as they keep their ego in check and know when to call it quits.
If you use the basic rules like using small progressions over long periods of time and never compromising form to lift heavier weight, you should be fine.
The deadlift is a basic movement of the human body and is not inherently dangerous. The danger occurs due to poor movement patterns people develop from lifting sedentary lifestyles. People basic devolve their basic biomechanical capabilities by sitting all the time and not using their body. They sit down for 8 hours a day and then want to go pick up 300 lbs. Not good.
I think it is important to note that weight lifting disciplines are not completely or primarily gauged towards health. Physical training is extremely important to develop a healthy body, but lifting maximal weights is not.