New England Journal of Medicine Reports Drowning Deaths are Underreported

The highly regarded New England Journal of Medicine has released comprehensive information about drowning injuries and drowning deaths worldwide. At the heart of this data is the conclusion by the New England Journal of Medicine and associated researchers that drowning deaths are underreported and perhaps significantly so. It is important for people who enjoy water activities, including swimming in public pools and recreating in open bodies of water, to understand the true risk of these activities – particularly when it comes to children.

Limitations of Existing Statistics About Fatal Drowning Accidents

According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, 0.7 percent of all deaths around the world are the result of unintentional drowning each year. This computes to 500,000 fatal drowning accidents annually. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, this tally is incomplete. The publication reports that this figure undercounts the actual number of drowning accident fatalities. This includes underestimates in so-called “high-income countries” like the United States.

Current drowning data appears to exclude people who drown in floods and tsunamis. However, according to research reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, the data also does not include boating accident drowning deaths. In short, the data on what purports to be a total of all drowning accident fatalities really is a focused presentation of people who lost their lives in swimming pools.

What We Do Know About Drowning Facts and Stats

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, drowning has been the leading cause of death among boys five to 14 years of age for some time. Moreover, in the United States, drowning is the second leading cause of what the Journal classifies as injury-related death among all children from infancy to four years of age.

While statistics regarding the drowning deaths of children historically have been firmer in the United States – although underreported – as researchers have begun to better focus on the rate of these types of tragedies in other countries, the fatality rate is more than alarming. The death by drowning rate of younger children in the United States is approximately three per every 100,000 one to four-year-olds. This is contrasted with other nations:

  • Thailand: the death rate among only two-year-old children is 107 per 100,000
  • Many African and Central American nations: the incidence of fatal drowning among one to four-year-old children is 10 to 20 times higher than the incidence in the United States, which translates to 30 to 60 child drowning fatalities per 100,000 youngsters in that age cohort

No matter the jurisdiction, the bottom-line fact about child drowning accidents is that virtually every single one of these tragic fatalities was completely preventable. Negligence is the reason why hundreds of children (and most adults) lose their lives in drowning accidents every year in the United States.

Established Definition of Drowning to Enhance Reporting

As part of its examination of the underreporting of U.S. drowning deaths and these types of fatalities internationally, the New England Journal of Medicine delineated the “new definition” of drowning established by the World Health Organization. “New” is relative inasmuch as this definition was instituted in 2002.

According to the WHO: Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid.

In order to allow for clearer identification of drowning deaths, the New England Journal of Medicine outlined the components of this type of fatality:

  • Potentially fatal drowning begins with respiratory impairment as the person's airway goes below the surface of the liquid (submersion) or water splashes over the face (immersion).
  • If the person is rescued at any time, the process of drowning is interrupted, resulting in a classification of nonfatal drowning.
  • If an individual times at any time as a result of drowning, this is termed a fatal drowning. (Historically, individuals that ultimately died as a result of drowning at a later juncture in time away from the liquid that caused the initial incident, that type of death oftentimes was classified incorrectly as something else.
  • The Journal goes on to note submersion or immersion events without evidence of respiratory impairment should not be considered a drowning.
  • The Journal emphasizes that a uniform way to report data after a drowning event is vital yet still not universally followed in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Legal Rights After a Drowning Accident

If you or a member of your family have been injured or killed in a drowning accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the legal team at The Doan Law Firm is here for you at (800) 349-0000. We can schedule a no-cost and no-obligation initial consultation with a committed, experienced drowning accident lawyer at any one of our 40 offices located across the country. A virtual case evaluation provided by an attorney can also be scheduled online.

The Doan Law Firm makes an attorney fee pledge to you. Our firm will never charge an attorney fee unless we win your case for you.