[Is there a physician on board?].Nord Med. 1998 Nov; 113(9):313-6.NM
Physicians responding to emergency calls on board airliners in intercontinental traffic may not be aware of certain legal complications which may arise. For instance, the medical practitioner may hold a license valid in one country, the air carrier may be registered in another, and the patient may be a third state national. Legislation varies between nations, as do court decisions. Physicians may be aware neither of the laws and regulations which apply nor the subtle differences between terms and interpretations used in formal language. This article contains a scenario description from a commercial air liner in intercontinental transit carrying a patient unknown to the physician who responds to a call for medical assistance. The main considerations to be made, the more likely diagnoses and various strategies for immediate interventions are reviewed. Likewise, appraisal and use of medical equipment on board are discussed, as are issues concerning responsibility and liability when equipment is used in supposedly "trained hands". Main themes in the current international medico-legal debate are considered with emphasis on the "Good Samaritan Principle", the responsibility of commercial air carriers, and telemedicine with insurance against law suits. The article concludes with some practical advice to the travelling medical community.