Doctors on a plane

The token of appreciation that airlines offer sometimes isn’t worth the cost and liability a physician risks by treating patients on flights.

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  • Anonymous

    Free miles or a ticket? Try a handshake and a free drink chit from the club class lounge. Been there, done that.

    Most inflight “emergencies” are avoidable, usually passengers who aren’t feeling well and should be somewhere else resting until they feel better, or people who just are too frail to travel by air in the first place.

    I think if the government of Quebec can confiscate his time against his will-which appears to be the case here; the choice wasn’t the doctor’s as whether he had to respond to the “emergency”, it was compulsory, then he should be compensated by the government of Quebec. That would be just.
    Does the Quebec provincial government make other licensed professionals perform compulsory services to the public without pay?

    As to the moral obligation here, the passenger attended to should offer to pay the doctor who saw her. Asking a physician to help as a physician in a “crisis” is not the same as asking any available passerby to render aid as in a highway accident.
    Professional service is what is being sought and as such deserves to be compensated as such, and not merely as gratis aid as given under typical “Good Samaritan” conditions.

  • Judy

    I understand the obligation to treat required by the Canadian government. I do not understand the obligation to spend time filling out the airline’s forms without compensation. If the airline wants forms filled out and THEIR EMPLOYEES cannot complete them, they need to figure out how to compensate the physicians for that.

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea of a patient attended on a plane receiving a bill from the doctor(s), just as she/he would receive a bill from the ER. Emergency treatment is emergency treatment, and should be billed accordingly.

    Why anyone wouldn’t expect and pay such a bill is beyond comprehension.

  • Happyman

    Ridiculous. the airline should be THRILLED that someone was around to deal with these patients. No good deed goes unpunished.

  • Bohemian Road Nurse…

    I’m going to try and hold my temper in this one, due to the issue of doctors who don’t want to respond to a call on an airline due to “liabilities”, the question of “who gets sued?” over a bad outcome, and ESPECIALLY a request for compensation for services.

    This EXPLAINS why, when I was on a KLM flight from Damascus, Syria, to The Netherlands WHY absolutely no dang doctor responded when a call went out over the loudspeaker, asking for a doctor.

    Not one guy/gal stood up. The call went out a second time. And mind you, they said that it was for a “passenger in DISTRESS”. Nobody stood up. Nobody.

    You can’t tell me that on a double-story 747— which held over 400 passengers— that there wasn’t one single doctor aboard.

    So I went. A lone RN.

    It was a passenger who was c/o abdominal pain. I was provided a basic vitals kit and took his vitals (which are difficult to hear in a 747, mind you.) They were stable.

    The captain of the airplane came to see me (and man, those Dutch captains have the neatest uniforms I’ve ever seen—epaulets and everything.)

    He asked what he should do—emergency landing or what. I advised the perfect logic of simply what I saw. That the patient appeared stable at the moment but that there was no way of knowing what the problem was without further medical eval.

    I advised him to hurry the hell up to get us to Amsterdam– and to have an ambulance on the tarmac to get the guy off the plane ASAP and to a medical facility.

    Which is what the captain did. (And it’s a weird thing to feel a 747 speed up. Usually they feel so stable, but this baby took off like the Enterprise and it was cool.)

    The airline gave me applause and handed me a big old bottle of premium champagne.

    Would I worry about “liability”? Hell no. Never thought about it. I considered it my good deed for the day. Would I want compensation? Hell no, never thought about it–was glad to help.

    Now, I’m not a doctor, but would I have done the paperwork? If I were a doctor, yeah, because the treating facility/doc would need it.

    And as far as losing the enjoyment” of a flight–who enjoys flights? I would have done the damn paperwork for the sheer distraction of the boredom of flights. I’d rather do paperwork than lose my luggage, watch a crappy movie, or some other bother of a flying. As a health professional, it would be just one more damn piece of paper, which I have come to see as my lot in life.

    And about my incident on KLM– Was I pissed off at all the doctors aboard who sat hiding behind their Time Magazines and Forbes? You betcha….

  • Bohemian Road Nurse…

    And if it is Canadian law that a doctor is compelled, against his will, to do such a thing—then surely the doctors buying airplane tickets KNOW THAT in advance, right? So why complain later?

  • Anonymous

    Why should the airline pay him? That is what they would be doing if they filled his request. They got him where they were taking him. They aren’t the passenger’s health care provider so it is the passenger that he was serving, not the airline. It is the law and professional ethics that confered the obligation on him to help, not the airline. It was the passenger that got the service and the passenger that should compensate him for his time.

    Regarding the forms, how could they make him do it if he felt so put upon? What would they do if he just wrote a note for his own file and declined to fill them out? Throw him off the plane?

  • Anonymous

    I always wonder about this. I am an MD, but went from psychiatry to admin 12 years ago. I would feel in a terrible bind, like i ought to go forward, because maybe I can offer a little something, but wanted to keep my seat knowing that even most non-physicians who are clinically active would probably better serve.

    What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Filling out the forms is the right thing to do. It protects the doctor from liability under the airline’s insurance.

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