On a recent international flight to London, a passenger required medical assistance. I don’t know if it is the karma of London but this is the second medical emergency on a plane headed to London that I have encountered.
I was only a couple rows behind the passenger and could see even before the crew announced the need for a doctor that he needed assistance. I jumped over the woman sitting next to me and was in the aisle in a flash. It was simply that instinctive. It didn’t occur to me to do otherwise or to question the Good Samaritan law.
After I roused the passenger who had momentarily lost consciousness, a flight attendant wanting to see my credentials intercepted me. Mildly annoyed, I quickly obliged by presenting 3 state licenses that I happen to carry in my wallet. But, what ran through my head was “this passenger could arrest while I take the time to produce said credentials.” It also momentarily made me question whether I should be helping this passenger (mind you this was very momentary). I was not carrying liability coverage as I was in between clinical jobs.
I noted that she did not ask the other male (paramedic) at the scene to produce credentials. However we were soon able to carry on. All accolades really go to the airline staff that placed the passenger in a laying position and the paramedic who placed the I.V. I merely helped assessed the passenger and quickly notified staff not to have the plane take off.
This time around was a far cry to the last emergency 10 years ago. Upon asking, an AED and supplies, all up to date and in order were produced immediately. The cabin crew was willing to assist and the passengers did not grumble despite the hour delay while assessing the passenger, waiting for paramedics, and yet another hour delay while replenishing supplies after the passenger had been taken off the plane.
After the event, the cabin staff was too gracious; I was almost a bit embarrassed by the verbal gratitude. Only after, I had the chance to query a flight attendant as to why I was asked to produce credentials. He confirmed that it is standard protocol but that if the situation were dire they could be shown after the fact. In rethinking the situation, it was clear that I don’t think the first flight attendant knew the possible gravity of the event.
My husband’s comment was to relay another recent story about how a physician charged the airline for his services when attending to an ill passenger. I was unable to find such story online when I searched.
I did a little research on the Good Samaritan Law. If one were to charge for services, this would negate the law. It also appears that every state has its own laws. This is what I found on US Legal: “A person is not obligated by law to do first aid in most states, not unless it’s part of a job description. However, some states will consider it an act of negligence though, if a person doesn’t at least call for help.”
Isn’t coming to the aid of an ailing passenger part of our job description? Or because we are not on duty, is it really not part of our job?
Have any of you had similar experiences while flying? What would you/did you do? I have shared what I have done and would do it again if given the choice.
Rajka Milanovic Galbraith is a family physician who blogs at Expat Doctor Mom.
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