International Commission for Mountain Emergency Medicine (ICAR MedCom), Zürich, Switzerland; Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Determination of death requires specific knowledge, training, and experience in most cases. It can be particularly difficult when external conditions, such as objective hazards in mountains, prevent close physical examination of an apparently lifeless person, or when examination cannot be accomplished by an authorized person. Guidelines exist, but proper use can be difficult. In addition to the absence of vital signs, definitive signs of death must be present. Recognition of definitive signs of death can be problematic due to the variability in time course and the possibility of mimics. Only clear criteria such as decapitation or detruncation should be used to determine death from a distance or by laypersons who are not medically trained. To present criteria that allow for accurate determination of death in mountain rescue situations, the International Commission for Mountain Emergency Medicine convened a panel of mountain rescue doctors and a forensic pathologist. These recommendations are based on a nonsystematic review of the literature including articles on determination of death and related topics.