The small island nation of Malta is considering making it mandatory for all divers to have an annual medical certification before diving. While it may seem like a new, radical move to promote diver safety, it’s a law they’ve already had in the past.
It used to be mandatory for all divers to have a medical examination certifying they were fit. The older you were, the more often you had to be tested and dive shops would not provide the diver with air fills without such a certificate. That changed in 2003, and divers now only need to fill in a medical questionnaire in which they make a self-declaration about their health. If any response suggests a medical problem, a doctor’s examination is then required.
Some scuba diving deaths could be avoided if regular medical checks became mandatory again, a leading physician specialised in undersea and hyperbaric medicine says.
“When you look at the cases of people who die while diving over the past 10 years or so, you realise that there is a growing trend of people whose deaths are, strictly speaking, not caused by the diving itself but by their underlying medical conditions,” the government’s chief diving medical officer, Stephen Muscat, told Times of Malta.
His comments come after three divers died in one day in two separate incidents on June 17. Two of the dead appear to have had difficulties and surfaced too quickly, which causes decompression sickness because nitrogen bubbles form in the body’s tissues.
The third, a 67-year-old Austrian man, is believed to have had some underlying medical conditions, and the same seems to have been the case with a German woman, 46, who died while diving with her husband in an area known as Ix-Xatt l-Aħmar, in Gozo.
What do you think? Should it be mandatory to have a regular diving medical exam here in the United States? Post your comments below.