Is there a doctor on the plane? No, they're too worried about being sued
By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor
31 May 2004
Doctors are increasingly reluctant to give medical assistance on aircraft for fear of being sued if things go wrong, according to a new report.
Around 1,000 incidents requiring medical assistance occur on aircraft around the world each week, but doctors are growing wary of coming to the aid of sick passengers.
The British Medical Association is today calling for national and international action to safeguard the health of the world's two billion annual air travellers. It says there are no regulated standards of health care or medical advice, and no first-aid training requirements for air crews.
In a report, The Impact of Flying on Passenger Health, the BMA says airline data shows of a "steady fall in the percentage of occasions when a doctor or healthcare professional responds to a crew announcement seeking a volunteer".
In the UK the General Medical Council stipulates that doctors have an ethical duty to help in an emergency. The BMA report cites data from Medaire, a US company that provides emergency medical assistance and advice to 70 airlines, showing that the reluctance of doctors to help is a global phenomenon.
Many airlines provide insurance to cover doctors carrying out "Good Samaritan" acts, the report says. In the US, legislation covers Good Samaritan acts but there is no equivalent law in the UK.