Review of the Historical Evolution of Drowning Prevention Legislation: Greece 13,385 BC-2016 AD
Introduction: According to the World Health Organization's 2014 Drowning Report, death by drowning ranks Greece 6th within the 28-members of the European Union and 39th among 116 countries. Undoubtedly, one of its cases is the legislation. Aim: To review the historical evolution of the aquatic accident prevention (AAP) legislation in Greece the last 124 centuries (13,385 B.C.-2016 A.D.), divided in 10 historical periods, and to gain lessons for use by public health and aquatic safety professionals that seek to revise the law in any country. Method: (1) Literature review of 307 references of the current legislation in Greece and international standards, using as key words "rescue", "lifeguarding", "legislation", "law", "drowning", "aquatic accidents" in 10 data bases, (2) review of documents submitted formally at the Hellenic Ministry of Health, (3) and comments on draft legislations by citizens and organizations that participated in the national debate about the legislation revision were evaluated. Summary: (1) In Greece during each era, at least one reason enhanced drowning leaving people unprotected (e.g. ancient Greeks attributed divine origin to drowning and thus, they did nothing to prevent it; in the Turkish and the Byzantium Period the "justice" allowed the ruler to drown people as means of punishment; in any period, those that tried to change the law were taunted, disputed or taken to the court as if they sought to damage their country. This attitude is explained by Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"). (2) The process of producing new legislation is extremely slow (e.g. it took 130 years to adapt inflatable baby bath seats as opposed of using pumpkins as inflatable means for children, 73 years to form officially requirements for founding lifeguard agencies, 113 and 140 years to hire officially beach and pool lifeguards respectively, and 115 years to include swimming in the curriculum of the primary school education). (3) Since the formal establishment of the contemporary Greek nation in 1833 A.D., several ministries issued at least 34 laws, decrees, and other legal acts about lifeguarding/water safety. This plethora of legislations shows some activity that is disorganized and often false adopted (lifeguards are hired without the necessary certifications or equipment etc.). (4) The governing officers that are authorized by law to control the operation of the lifeguard agencies and the aquatic facilities lack expertise. (5) It seems more realistic to divide a national legislation draft in 3 parts than to enforce the voting of its whole at the Greek parliament because it will require the approval by less ministers each time. The governing/ministerial leadership changes constantly, and thus, their agenda too, making difficult the effort to update the legislation (I reached the 11th year trying to change the AAP legislation in Greece). (6) The revision of a legislation requires right timing, lack of higher priorities in the political agenda, goodwill, funding and a visionary that will dedicate time and energy to connect the dots disregarding the obstacles.
Citation: Avramidis, S. (2017). Review of the Historical Evolution of Drowning Prevention Legislation in Greece 13,385 BC - 2016 AD. In: Avramidis S. (Ed.). Conference on Near-Death Experiences while Drowning (p. 25). Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA: International Swimming Hall of Fame.