Friday, April 07, 2006

Falsifying medical forms for dive certification lessons

While recently answering a question from a scuba instructor we ascertained that he felt that one of the most dangerous activities that he faced was "lying on medical forms". Failure to report risky preexisting medical problems would certainly be adverse to diving safety, not only to the student but to the instructor and others on a dive excursion. In order to find out more about this problem we asked several of our consultants knowledgeable about diving medicine and who are also instructors. We thought you'd be interested in some comments we received.

Here is a letter from Dr. Martin Quigley who also queried one of the certifying agencies.

"Here are my thoughts:

Obviously the most serious scenario is when the student (or certified diver on a charter or boat trip) conceals medical information and the instructor/dive master/boat captain doesn't learn of the condition until there's an accident (or worse). Not much of anything you can do in that situation.

If the instructor discovers a deliberate omission by a student (for example sees a thoracotomy scar in the pool when the student denied prior surgery or sees a student using an inhaler for asthma) I think there are only two choices. One would be to summarily dismiss the student from the class. The disadvantage of this approach is the student is probably going to try the same approach again with a different instructor and/or dive shop.

I believe that a better choice would be to suspend the student from class and insist that he see a physician (hopefully one with some dive medicine experience) for evaluation and medical clearance. The decision as to whether or not to accept the student back is ultimately the instructors depending, in part, on the medical assessment) but this approach is likely to lead to the safest outcome.

Martin M. Quigley, MD, MBA, MHA
1056 Paseo del Rio Drive, NE Saint Petersburg, FL 33702-1457

When asked the same question, the certifying agency (PADI) had the following answer:

"Thank you for your email. We would advise a member on with the steps that you listed for your second option. That would be to discontinue training until such time the student can get with their physician to sign the medical and get authorization for diving. Once an Instructor is aware of a divers medical condition they need to take the proper steps to make sure that that divers is fit for scuba diving."

Another of my instructor friends had the following comment:

"Ern- I believe this to be serious problem that is rarely dealt with. The "no harm - no foul" mentality works until there is a consequence, then it gets ugly. I have seen over a dozen cases wherein the lie is rationalized to the level of an "oversight" and the defendants recover large sums. The "problem" is so common place that I doubt much will change. Even with the much more lenient medical fitness standards, many divers feel that if they tell the truth they will not be able to dive. Tough problem."

We have placed a query with a poll on our Scuba Clinic forum at . Please visit the thread and poll to give us your opinion of this problem.

See also these web pages on our web site:
Medical Exam and Physical , Sport Diving - PADI Medical Statement Physical Exam Form. -

[PDF] Medical Exams
Medical Exams. q. Family practitioner assists filling out A special form and ... NAUI Medical Exam Forms. ...

Medical Exams - Why A Medical Exam? The only real reason for recreational divers to have an ... Family practitioner assists filling out a special form and suggests referral ... -