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May 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Divers Die: Part I

too much panic, too few trips to the doctor

from the May, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Every year, several hundred divers die around the world. Their deaths are usually caused by bad decisions, like diving beyond one's experience, diving with known medical conditions and diving in bad conditions. Most dive-related deaths are avoidable, and many of them might have had better outcomes through better training, better knowledge of the associated risks, appropriate medical screening, better gear maintenance -- and just plain common sense.

Since our founding in 1975, we have published significant dive fatality cases so that our readers might better prepare themselves for safe diving. For many years, we relied on Divers Alert Network (DAN) and the cases it gathered of U.S. fatalities, but DAN no longer compiles them for public attribution. This year, we're using cases studied by DAN's Asia-Pacific division. We hope that by explaining these cases, divers will understand better how they could contribute to their own demise, and exercise proper judgment throughout their diving career.

What Would Your Doctor Say?

For years, we've been reporting on the dilemma of divers reporting medical conditions. There are some who solicit letters from their doctors indicating they are fit to dive and get themselves cleared before they arrive at their destinations. There are those divers with conditions well managed by medications who fear they will be denied diving by nave dive operators if they disclose those conditions. And there are those who carry their doctor's permission letters, disclose their conditions, and are still ordered to get a local doctor certificate. Disclosure is a dilemma for some divers, but the upshot is that diving is stressful and conditions can overwhelm a diseased heart. Even in snorkelers, as this first case indicates....

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