Bath death

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The death during swimming (including indirect or atypical drowning) is a death in the water, the principle, not by drowning caused. It is a forensic medical term; death by bathing is determined by an autopsy . In contrast to drowning (the so-called bathing accident or "immediate" drowning), the lungs and gastrointestinal tract are essentially free of water during autopsy. This means that there was little or no water aspiration (water inhalation) before death .

Occasionally, bathing death is equated with reflex death in water (bathing death in the narrower sense). In contrast, reflex death in the broader sense of the word is only one possible cause.

In Germany there were 114 bathing deaths in 2012; In 2013 there were 250.


The causes can be very different. Bathing death is mostly a death from natural causes that occurs accidentally while bathing or swimming, or is related to being in the water, without being a drowning death. The decisive criterion for differentiating between a bathing accident and a bathing accident is that there is no significant inhalation of water.

This can be explained by all sudden illnesses that lead to respiratory arrest or circulatory arrest in the water. This can, for example, a brain hemorrhage , a heart attack or sudden occurred paralysis of the respiratory muscles in paraplegia be too shallow water due to a head jump in one. A lightning strike or an electrical accident can also cause irregular heartbeat ( ventricular fibrillation ); this can lead to cardiac arrest in the water and thus to bathing death.

A special form of bathing death is reflex death in water (also indirect drowning after nervous shock ). Different forms of reflex death in water are distinguished:

  • Larynx shock : The cold water causes a glottic spasm (laryngospasm), which prevents breathing. This is an explanation for the medically justifiable popular recommendation never to go or jump into the water without cooling.
  • Pain or circulatory shock : Is triggered, for example, by a slap of the stomach on the surface of the water, which irritates the solar plexus ( solar plexus ). This can lead to the blood sinking in reflexively slackened intestinal vessels . The heart is prevented from filling and circulatory shock results . This explains the popular belief that bathing should be avoided on a “full stomach” or after having enjoyed sauerkraut. Previous alcohol consumption also increases the risk of circulatory shock due to dilation of blood vessels and should therefore be avoided before bathing - regardless of this, the risk of "normal" drowning (swimming accident) also increases after alcohol consumption.
  • Eardrum defects : water penetrating through the eardrum can trigger vertigo and disorientation and lead to reflex death in the water.


  • Wolfgang Schwerd: suffocation (lack of oxygen). In: Wolfgang Schwerd (Hrsg.): Brief textbook of forensic medicine for doctors and lawyers. Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag, Cologne-Lövenich, 3rd, revised and expanded edition 1979, ISBN 3-7691-0050-6 , 71–84, here: pp. 80–84.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Rogal, Schrader, v. Reibnitz: Sudden death from natural causes. In: Intern. Journal of Legal Medicine. Volume 36, Supplement 1, Springer-Verlag, 1942. (online link)
  2. a b c script forensic medicine thanatology (study of the essence of death) ( Memento from February 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich
  3. a b B. Karger, B. Brinkmann, B. Madea: Handbook of judicial medicine. Springer, 2003, ISBN 3-540-00259-6 , p. 797. (Google book search)

See also