Death and Dying Abroad: The Canadian Experience
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BACKGROUND: The objective was to examine the characteristics of international travelers from Canada, who have died while abroad, and to review the health protection and promotion strategies for prevention of adverse health outcomes associated with travel, which may have prevented these deaths. METHOD: An EpiInfo 6 program was created to analyse all of the Consular reports received in 1995 via the Secure Integrated Global Network, which provides communications and computerization services to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada. The Consular Management and Operations System was designed to support the delivery of consular services by the Department, and to link Headquarters in Ottawa with missions in other countries, through case management files, including a "Death Abroad" file. The type of data collected included personal demographics (age, gender), date, country, and cause of death. RESULTS: In 1995, consular services received 309 reports of Canadians dying abroad. Two hundred and twenty deaths were males (71.2%), and 69 were females (22.3%). The average age (56 years) and median age (43 years) were similar for males and females (age range 0.3-86 years). Recorded causes of death were: natural (62.1%), accidents (24.9%), murder (7.8%), and suicide (5.2%). Cardiovascular disease and trauma were the two most commonly specified causes of death. CONCLUSIONS: At least 36% of the deaths occurring in Canadian travelers would be considered preventable. Pretravel medical interventions for travelers with known preexisting medical problems, may have prevented many more deaths. International travelers need to be aware of the health risks associated with travel. Access to appropriate health risk assessment, prior to exposure, in many cases, would have prevented death abroad.
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