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Doctor Cleared In Tech Diving Fatality

Picture: Dr Stephen Broe 1960 – 2005

A doctor should have more thoroughly investigated a man’s sleeping disorder before clearing him as medically fit to dive, an inquest has found.

Queensland coroner Michael Barnes found Dr Greg Emerson could have further queried Dr Stephen Broe’s sleep apnoea before certifying him as fit to undertake specialty deep dives in early 2005.

Dr Broe, 45, died on April 28, 2005, shortly after completing a dive to a depth of 50 metres off the coast of Moreton Island near Brisbane.

The inquest, held in Brisbane in March, was told Dr Broe had just completed the final dive in a technical deep-diving course when he immediately complained of burning pain in his chest and severe shortness of breath.

Despite assistance from people on the boat, Dr Broe lapsed into unconsciousness and died a few minutes later.

Mr Barnes on Friday found Dr Broe’s cause of death was decompression sickness, also known as The Bends.

In his findings, Mr Barnes said the effect of Dr Broe’s sleep apnoea on his ability to perform deep dives should have been further investigated.

However, he made no recommendations Dr Emerson be referred to the Medical Board, saying there was “no evidence the doctor was lax or cavalier” in his assessment of Dr Broe.

In his findings, Mr Barnes said diving doctors rarely come across sufferers of sleep apnoea.

Mr Barnes recommended a review of dive medical guidelines in light of evidence given during the inquest.

He also suggested the dive industry review how deep divers exit the water, saying the current standard practice for them to climb onto the back of the boat may place them under unnecessary exertion.


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