To lie or not to lie?

By Daniel Nord
Daniel Nord provides an overview of what medical statements entail and why it is important to answer all the questions honestly.
 
When it comes to honesty on medical forms, the truth is sometimes elusive. Have you ever been advised to lie on a medical statement when signing in for a dive? Have you ever lied on a medical form simply so you could dive? Have you ever lied anyway, despite getting all the necessary medical clearances, simply to avoid confrontation?
Have you ever felt like it was all a complete waste of time or worse, an invasion of your privacy? You’re not alone.            
Despite the debates, questions and hackles they can raise, you are likely to encounter medical statements during your diving career. Properly executed, they can be an important element of dive safety.
What is the Medical Statement?
The medical statement is a set of unified standards evolved from the need for minimum health standards prior to initiating dive training. Over the decades, fitness protocols for recreational divers have varied widely. Typically established by training agencies, medical statements often integrate input from dive medicine professionals.
As the sport gained popularity and attracted a broader population, dive medicine and dive research have consolidated the information typically requested and now most medical forms address a balance of physical and psychological stability.
From a Legal Perspective
Many dive operators establish their own guidelines for judging whether a certified diver is medically fit to engage in certain types of diving. By asking each diver to complete a medical history form, the operator is trying to avoid undue risk to both his or her business and to the other divers. The document is intended to protect but if the dive staff encourages customers to misrepresent their medical conditions, it defeats the purpose.
While the law may differ depending on location and interpretation, whena diver signs a medical form, he or she is generally attesting to the accuracy of his or her statements. Most forms require you to acknowledge that the statements are both accurate and complete.
A liability waiver usually accompanies the medical history form. When adiver signs a waiver, it generally becomes a contractual agreement stating that he or she will not be entitled to recover damages from the dive operator if said operator engages in negligent conduct.
When a customer misrepresents his or her fitness to dive on a medical historyform, the legal protection of the dive operator is not necessarily violated. The dive operator has the right to rely on written representations that a diver makes about his or her medical conditions. In fact, a diver’s decision to omit parts of his or her medical history may give the dive operator further legal protection through an assumption-of-risk defence. By failing to provide the information, it can be logical to conclude that the diver elected to assume all risks related to the undisclosed medical condition.
Why is the Medical Statement Necessary?
Despite its laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, scuba diving and the environmental conditions encountered are potentially stressful to the human body. Though we now know a great deal more about dive injury prevention and haveincreased safety standards, accidents still occur.
We often hear statements like “had I only known it could be like this”. The hardest scenarios occur when it is too late to change a tragic outcome. Conditions vary and divers need to be fi t enough to respond to worst-case scenarios. The medical statement is intended to red flag any medical issue that may be contraindicated to diving (before the diver gets in the water) and to provide information should a diver get injured and be unable to speak for himself or herself.
Sadly, each year DAN learns of dive accidents and mishaps that happen to divers who have been less than honest in their medical statements. Perhaps the various forms can seem overly generalised, but they do serve as a good starting point in helping people foresee some of the potential health risks associated with recreational diving.
How ShouldYou Answer the Questions?
When faced with a medical statement, the approach to answering questions is simple: answer them honestly. Lying on a form not only leaves you open to injury, but may also impede appropriate medical care due to the omission of vital information.
Be Proactive
Early, proactive approaches to personal health can make a big difference. If you have specific health issues, call your medical professional to make sure you are cleared for diving. Also call the dive operator ahead of time to discuss your medical condition and find out what documentation they will require to allow you to dive. DAN can assist you with information and medical referrals, or even discuss a given medical condition with a dive operator who is unsure about whether your condition is contraindicated to diving. With a proactive approach, it is very likely you will not only receive the medical evaluation you need, but also the appropriate documentation that will enable you to fill out the questionnaire honestly and make it a useful part of safe diving practices.
No one can deny that committed divers have a strong desire to continue diving after a challenge to their health or after developing medical conditions as they age. To lower the risk of injury, divers should honestly disclose and address health concerns. Though it may raise more immediate questions when answering “yes” on a medical form, truthful replies increase your safety as well as the safety of everyone around you in the long run.

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