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July 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 38, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Doesn’t DAN Have the Same Insurance Standards Worldwide?

from the July, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dave Van Rooy, our webmaster who lives in Bali, recently received a letter from the Asia-Pacific branch of Divers Alert Network, requiring that he get a complete physical before it would grant him dive travel insurance. "It's apparently due to my age," says Van Rooy, 67, but he never had to meet that requirement when he was living in the U.S. What gives?

The letter from DAN Asia-Pacific details its reasons. "Our statistics highlight that there has been a significant increase in diving-related deaths involving divers over 45. Many of these result from cardiac-related problems that were precipitated by the numerous cardiac stressors in the diving environment. These incidents often occur in divers who were unaware of any pre-existing problems. As a diving safety initiative, we are encouraging divers over 50 to visit a doctor, preferably one trained in diving medicine, to discuss their diving and health and determine whether any particular testing is advisable."

John Lippman, executive director of DAN Asia-Pacific, headquartered in Australia, told us, "We committed about five years ago to collect information about what medical conditions divers are diving with. Many divers outside Australia have never had a dive medical, and many seldom see a doctor, so this provides us with an opportunity to gain valuable information. We sometimes refer divers to a doctor if there is something indicating concern. The whole procedure is an administrational nightmare for us, but it is something we decided to take on for the benefit of research and diving safety. Most members take this in stride, some get upset, but some are extremely grateful. We are pretty sure this has saved some lives, and it's also compiling valuable information about diving health and safety. This is motivated by safety, and not driven by insurance risk."

In Dave's case, DAN didn't make him have a medical examination, Lippman says. "We took his word that he had regular medicals, and he actually provided evidence of his latest."

So why doesn't DAN America follow the same procedure? Wouldn't gathering that information be valuable for its research, administrational nightmare be damned? Are we lazy Americans getting off the hook? When we asked DAN America, headquartered in Durham, NC, about the difference overseas, we got this written reply, "To date, underwriters of the DAN Americas policies have not made the request for physicals. Regardless, we continue to look more closely at the relationship between fitness and diving. While it is not DAN's right to dictate an individual's health and fitness practices, DAN Americas conducts member health surveys to gain insight into the health condition of our membership base. We consistently review the underwriting protocols of our policies."

We find it interesting that a medical organization staffed with MDs and Ph.Ds defers to its insurance company when asked about requiring medical examinations for divers. We're not a medical organization, but having been in business as long as we have, we can see these issues pretty damn clearly and can certainly take a more direct stance. Rough water, deep diving, currents, surges, climbing into a Zodiac, long swims, multiple dives a day, shore diving and on and on are stressors. If you plan to subject yourself to these conditions, for starters, consider your weight, age, strength, aerobic capacity, experience, whether you've ever had a bends hit (or an underwater freakout), and your physician's recent assessment of your health. Then, if you feel comfortable after thinking these things through, go get wet.

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