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April 11, 1980

Cold facts concerning hypothermia

JAMA. 1980;243(14):1403-1409. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300400005002

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  • A woman is found in the snow with much of her clothing removed. Looking at the cold, still body, police conclude that she may have been raped and murdered during the night. They begin to cordon off the area and urge others at the scene, including a physician, to stay away from the body in order to preserve clues.

  • As underwater oil exploration proceeds in the North Sea, an average of six divers a year die. For at least half of these deaths, there is no—or only a partial—explanation. In addition, many other divers do not die but suffer unexplained confusion or loss of consciousness.

Virtually all participants in a recent Kingston, RI, conference would counsel the physician in the first case not to be put off by the police but to examine the woman.

The main reason? She may not be dead. An oft repeated maxim in