Is There a Doctor on Board?
Medizinische und rechtliche Sicherheit bei Notfällen in Verkehrsflugzeugengerman translation / full article
Medical and Medicolegal Aspects of Managing In-Flight Emergencies
Summary: Many people travel by commercial airplane each year. The number of airline customers is increasing steadily. But passengers are getting older, flying over greater distances in airplanes transporting up to 800 travellers. Thus the probability of in-flight medical emergencies will increase. Access to specialized care is limited in the skies and aircraft diversions are costly and inconvenient. A family physician travelling by air might receive a call for help in this situation. On board there are different conditions and medicolegal aspects which have to be considered. The voluntary physician get´s support if he wants to help a patient. First aid training of the crew is one source of help available, a lot of airlines have emergency medical equipment on board including oxygen and automated external defibrillators. Additional emergency medical advice can be sought by calling ground based consultants via satellite. If the voluntary physician recommends a diversion, the decision is made by the pilot in command who also accepts the responsibility. The risk of legal liability is small, airlines often offer additional protection to the volunteer. To work in this special situation is a challenge and this article may provide help family physicians to manage future calls for a doctor on board.