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January 12, 1990

In-flight Emergencies: Doc Riders in the Sky

Author Affiliations

Congress of the United States House of Representatives Washington, DC

Congress of the United States House of Representatives Washington, DC

JAMA. 1990;263(2):234. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440020067022

To the Editor.—  I read with a great deal of interest the March 3 issue of The Journal, which included the results of a 1-year survey of in-flight emergency medical situations.1This survey included exhaustive data outlining the incidence of emergencies, type of complaint, treatment, and individual responding to the emergency. I found the last figure rather surprising. While only 13% of all in-flight emergencies were treated by a physician, commercial flights usually include two or three physicians among the list of passengers. This figure seems to indicate that during many of these situations physicians were reluctant or otherwise unable to provide assistance. I feel such reluctance can be directly attributed to fear of malpractice liability.In January 1989, I introduced HR 676, The In-Flight Emergency Medical Assistance Act, which would free licensed physicians from constraining malpractice laws when treating this special type of emergency. James H. Sammons, MD,