Marcus Wong, ‘Doctor in the sky: Medico-legal issues during in-flight emergencies’

More people are travelling by air and in-flight medical emergencies are becoming more common. Some in-flight emergencies require assistance from passenger doctors who act as good Samaritans in the sky. Their liability and the associated medico-legal issues of providing assistance in mid-flight emergencies are unknown. Although provisions exist in theory about good Samaritans on the ground, it is unclear to what extent these doctrines are applicable to good Samaritans in the sky. This article examines the obligations, liability and legal protection of doctors when acting as good Samaritans in mid-flight emergencies, regardless of their nationalities. It examines the jurisdiction, existing legislations, case law in the United Kingdom and compares with their equivalence in the United States and to some extent, with the legal provisions in France. In addition to in-flight emergencies, this article reviews airlines’ liability for injuries sustained by passengers during flight. It is concluded that doctors’ liability is unclear and uncertain, their legal protection is inadequate and inconsistent; airlines’ liability is restricted by the courts. Reforms proposed include legislative enactment and extension of commercial airliners’ insurance to accord the deficient legal protection.

Marcus Wong, Doctor in the sky: Medico-legal issues during in-flight emergencies, Medical Law International. First Published May 8, 2017

First posted 2017-05-09 07:08:56

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