Attending In Flight Emergencies. Part of our Hippocratic Oath?

You or someone you now has a sudden medical emergency on a flight.  In the moment you are probably not thinking about anything else.. aside from your well being.  You hope that someone on board is medically trained.

Should doctors on board be obligated to attend to  such emergencies?  Should they be asked to produce credentials?  If so, before or after the emergency?  Should doctors be liable for free services provided or be protected by the “Good Samaritan” law?  Or should doctors charge for their services?

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6 years ago by in Health/Parenting | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
12 Comments to Attending In Flight Emergencies. Part of our Hippocratic Oath?
    • Dr Pramod kumar sharma
    • This type of opportunity comes in one’s life not frequently and in my opinion I shall do my best in such a situation without thinking any consequences.I think no body will ask for credentials of a Doctor helping at such a moment.As far as charging fees is not fair.We should be thankful to God for making us competent for saving a life.               

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Agreed. You are one of the good ones Dr Pramod!

        There is a saying if I can so humbly quote it from the Koran which I became familiar with living here in the Middle East: “To save one life is to save all of humanity.”

        • Selflessdoctorsairlines
        • You’re such a good person Doctor Mom, that I hope you have lots and lots of opportunities to save humanity. I hope that during every flight you take you’ll be required as a guardian angel of every sick person on board, to practice medicine. I guess a wonderful person like you, full of stoicism and selflessness will grab the opportunity to play E.R. for free like there is no tomorrow.  Then your humble person can receive enough praise for you heroic acts, and maybe set the example for the egocentric bad doctors to follow.
          I’m sure you’ll face risks to your professional license no matter what the severity of the emergency, once you’re such an amazing human being that you would give up practicing medicine just to serve airlines.

    • Tammy Music
    • I do not believe that a doctor is obligated to assist a person with a medical situation while in flight, however I would believe that the physician would compelled to come to the aid of a person with a medical situation.  I do not believe it should be required to show credentials in order to assist someone. 
       A friend of mine who has his doctoric in physical therapy was called upon during a flight to London and was told there was a medical emergancy on the flight and could he come and assist.  He was asked for his credentials before exiting his seat.  He advised he was a PT and not sure what he could do but would be happy to assist in any way possible.  The situation was a person choking on some nuts and having a hard time breathing.  As the person choking I would not care what the credentials were of the person willing to save my life. 
      As far as the physician charging the airlines, I do not believe that should be an acceptable practice, as the physician did not have a contractual aggreement with the airline to provide the service.  I would think that physician as a sign of human compassion would have come to the aid of someone pro bono. 

    • Cdothey
    • I was in such a case once, going from the US to Belgium. A coopilot had a seizure or an apnea. I did mouth to mouth, resuscitated him and watched him for the time it took us to land to Canada where a team with a doctor came to pick him up. I had a call from the director of the airline and a box of chocolate. I didn’t think about it until I came back to the US and the people from the hospital woried about my insurance! I did call the lawyer of the hospital who told me it would not be covered because it happen in international territory! Nothing happend anyway.

    • Fabiana Sarti
    • In Brazil Hippocratic Oath includes any potential threat to life according to our medical judgment. 
      It would exclude obvious mild conditions usually related to flight. Thus it would be necessary to have a flight attendant within the crew specially trained to discern between situations, and even judge whether to wait to ask for credentials or not. Besides, how could a physician guess that a passenger ten rows ahead his seat needs help? Another issue must be taken into consideration. If you aren’t familiar to the emergency protocols, or with the equipment on board could you be blamed for bad practice? Could you be sued if the patient dies? Which laws rule international flight occurrences?My father is a medical doctor and well known in his specialty area. When I was a girl we flew all over Europe and I can count at least five flights with medical occurrences, from mild nausea to a heart attack. This last one was attended by him and another colleague on board.His counselling was:” Dear, when they call for a doctor on board, count slowly to three, and if nobody else shows up, then it’s your duty to answer.”.As for remuneration, I think it’s nothing but fair that flight companies pay whatever the doctor charges. We pay for food, music, seat reservation, and very soon, toilet use. Shouldn’t we be well paid to practice in one of the most awful conditions ever?I guess the patient is entitled to thank the physician as he pleases, because in his case, it was a real Good Samaritan approach. But flight companies are profiting and taking advantage of human solidarity.  

    • Medical Flights
    • Hiya! Awesome blog! I happen to be a daily
      visitor to your site (somewhat more like addict) of this website. Just wanted to
      say I appreciate your blogs and am looking forward for more to come!

    • larry king
    • GOOD WORK, DOCTOR,   rules and laws are useless, when, time, energy, and expertise are the only intervention that matters to the emergent, their families, the observants, and the interupter’s need to do the right thing, I never miss a chance in or out of the hospital to make the difference, I have been instumental in many successful saves, in collaboration with some higher power that shared a favorable strength, and wisdom, All interventions are not successful, danger, mouth to mouth  prolonged resusitation, and the petitions of legal second guessors, are a small price to burden, when a live is saved, I ready for the next emergency,  larry King RN.

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Dear Larry!

        Twice in one day, I am soo flattered! I think we would have made a good team during these saves!

        I have not been involved in too many direct saves since my residency days but, I feel it important to always avail myself if the occasion arises.

        Agreed, I cannot think about this in any other terms but a live saved!

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