Topic Author
Posts: 2802
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2000 1:02 pm

"Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Fri Nov 02, 2001 11:53 pm

Does anyone remember the case of the doctor who was onboard the American Airlines flight and helped out in a medical emergency? He later billed American Airlines for his services and when they refused to pay, he took them to small claims court. He lost the case, which really isn't surprising considering AA's experienced legal team.

Around that time, there was an article published in the BBC News regarding incdents like this. The doctors proposed a plan whereby they would identify themselves to the airline as a doctor when they checked in for their flight and would offer their services in case of a medical emergency, in exchange for an upgrade. They also would agree not to drink any alchoholic beverages on the flight in case their services were needed later.

Here is the article:

Flying doctors want automatic upgrades


What's your opinion on this? Should the airlines take the doctors up on their offer, or, since the F/A is there "primarily for our safety", should the doctors just let the airline personnel take care of situations like this?


Cathay Pacific
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Joined: Sat May 27, 2000 1:29 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 12:01 am

this really makes me sick.....why can some people be so insensitive????
cathay pacific, now you're really flying
Posts: 319
Joined: Wed May 30, 2001 9:06 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 12:01 am

I thought doctors have an ethical obligation to help out in an emergency regardless of whether they've been comped upgrades by the airline etc.
Posts: 2644
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2000 7:59 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 12:14 am

I am a doctor.
In theory you do have an ethical obligation, but when things do not work out for the best those that are ill have an ethical obligation, I think, not to sue you.
It depends on wether your medico-legal insurance covers you in these situations. Mine does, but I would still think twice.
Posts: 909
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2001 7:50 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 12:55 am

Those docters are really sick in the brain... arrogant piece of shit... (not all of then offcourse)
Soaring the internet...
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RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 1:01 am

I am with 767-322ETOPS ! I thought too it was an ethical obligation.

Here in Europe I would say no doubt about helping out in an emergency of whatever kind, but that might be different in the US (with the insurance issues).

Regards, SN-A330
I would rather be flying...
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Joined: Tue Nov 21, 2000 6:32 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 1:59 am

There has been case law where the physician could seek damages from the patient (after the fact) and win under restitution. For this situation, I'm guessing the passenger didn't have the deep pockets AA did. I'm surprised the lawyer took plaintiff's case given that AA in now way was involved in the physician's direct medical care.
lmml 14/32
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Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2001 2:27 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 2:25 am

In my humble opinion, any doctor is legally bound to make himself available in case of an emergency. Especially in an in-flight environment where medical help can be hour away. It is, of course, only ethical on the airline's side to offer some sort of compensation. In this case this should NEVER be money, but instead a free flight or an upgrade next time or something similar. I do not know what prompted the doctor in the leader of this post to bill the airline - whether the airline simply ignored his act or whether the doctor billed the airline immediately on arrival. But to me whatever the case, this doctor really stooped low. I do not agree with doctors making themselves known on check in for an upgrade as this amounts to payment in advance for services which may never be rendered after all.
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Joined: Sun Jul 11, 1999 7:40 am

RE: "Is There A Doctor Onboard?"

Sat Nov 03, 2001 11:04 am

As a doctor who travels regularly, I have been called to two emergencies. For one case, I was able to rule out anything serious and therefore adviced the captain that we may continue our short flight. On the second occasion however, I returned the BA 747 back to Kuala Lumpur in order to off-load a very sick passenger and his family as the passenger was having a heart attack. We were only 15 minutes out of KUL at the time.

Note that on both occasions - I ADVISED the captain as a medic. On the first occasion - I did not expect anything in return as the passenger was clearly not in need of urgent medical assistance and simple advice sufficed.

On the second occasion however, a BA steward actually came up to me in my seat and asked me to help as I had checked-in under the DR. name. It took some time taking a history, examining the passenger and forming a differential diagnosis, given the constraints of doing it in seat 40B or wherever he was. Setting up intravenous access for the attending medics on return to KUL and administering vital emergency drugs on board - was all NOT part of the contract with BA when I purchased my ticket.

I offered help as I know I am covered medico-legally on board any British carrier as a practising British physician but given the constraints and legal issues surrounding the matter - I would always think twice. Little do many realise that doctors are not necessarily covered by the so-called 'Good Samaritan' act and should a wrong diagnosis and/or treatment be given - the attending 'doctor' is liable. Given the circumstances of the fact that there may not be another medically qualified person on-board at the time - the doctor standing in the dock in court would have very little to back himself with - should things go wrong.

As the captain announced the delay on that flight, I was flabbergasted by the sigh of dismay by the other 300-odd passengers who seem to have blamed me for considering returning to KUL - and not acknowledge the fact that I made the decision on the life at stake. All many passengers seemed to care about was their connecting flights and the atmosphere in the cabin is very different to seeing a patient in the Casualty department.

Note - I was not upgraded when we left KUL for the second time but received a verbal word of thanks from the captain and 2 bottles of champagne on arrival at London. As I was travelling in Club World, I wasn't expecting much in return and I think the majority of doctors would not think of financial rewards for the job done anyway. However, I don't really see why an upgrade should not be out of the question given that under usual circumstances, fees for healthcare services are payable and it is a doctor's perogative as a practising professional to charge if he feels necessary - much like a solicitor would or any other professional.

Also note that a BA staff member asked me to help on that second flight so I did not 'volunteer' as it were...

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