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New In-flight medical emergency guidelines published

Physicians at St. Michael’s Hospital have developed practical recommendations for in-flight medical emergencies for healthcare professionals, published online today in the journal CMAJ.

Air travel especially long haul flights put significant stress and strain on body. Also airline traffic seen significant uptick and is projected to rise. With these we see increasing number of people with pre-existing medical conditions and elderly this has led to increase in in-flight medical emergencies.

Physicians developed guidelines in collaboration with Air Canada and WestJet. These guidelines  provide an overview of the available medical equipment, the environmental challenges of treating patients on a plane, the airlines’ policies and procedures as well as the legal and ethical duties of physicians to respond to a call for assistance.

Every plane with at least 100 passenger seats is legally required to carry a medical kit, according to Transport Canada. Although Transport Canada also outlines the minimal requirements the medical kit must contain, individual airlines have the flexibility to enhance the contents as they see fit, the authors said.

In Canada, Quebec is the only province that imposes a legal duty on physicians to come to the assistance of a person in a life-threatening emergency, the authors said. All jurisdictions, however, have legislation that protects physicians who voluntarily provide emergency medical assistance at the scene of an accident or in an emergency, they said.

The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Protective Association both suggest physicians have an ethical obligation to provide their best assistance during an emergency, according to the authors.

Citation: Kodama, David, Bobby Yanagawa, Jim Chung, Ken Fryatt, and Alun D. Ackery. ““Is there a doctor on board?”: Practical recommendations for managing in-flight medical emergencies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 190, no. 8 (2018). doi:10.1503/cmaj.170601.

Adapted from press release from the St. Michael’s Hospitals.

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