Investigation of Drowning Deaths: A Practical Review.
Drowning, which typically involves a watery environment, remains a serious public health concern claiming an estimated 362 000 lives per year worldwide across all socioeconomic classifications and has remained under close observation by the World Health Organization and its signatories. A significant number of water-related deaths are attributed to accidental drowning, while a smaller but still significant number represent suicidal or homicidal drowning. Others involve a combination of drowning precipitated by injury, intoxication, or environmental extremes. Still others involve victims that die from injury, intoxication, or a natural disease entity of such significance as to preclude the drowning process, while near or in water. While there may be an initial presumption that all water-related deaths are accidental drownings, other possibilities must be considered in the investigation of these types of deaths, as drowning as a cause of death is a diagnosis based on the exclusion of other potential causes. The coordinated investigative efforts of multiple agencies and disciplines are required not only for the designation as drowning as the cause of death but also for death certification. The ongoing analysis and dissemination of data generated from all levels of investigation augment our understanding of the impact on public health and safety, guiding allocation of monetary and educational resources in an effort to prevent further mortality and disability.
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