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January 27, 1989

In-flight Medical Emergencies

Author Affiliations

King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

JAMA. 1989;261(4):559. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420040093024

To the Editor.—  From the statistics of in-flight deaths reported by Cummins et al,1 one might infer that the problem is a minor one; however, serious illness that occurs during commercial air travel may be a much larger problem. Some of Cummins' coauthors have claimed that "all airlines... rely on the chance presence of a doctor competent to deal with the more serious emergency."2 This is not necessarily the case.1,3However, as passengers, we have been requested to attend to in-flight medical emergencies on several different occasions. We have found that the crew are only too relieved to shift the responsibility for the patient onto any co-opted physician-passenger. On a recent intercontinental flight both a psychiatrist and one of the authors (K.R.E.), an anesthesiologist, responded to the call for help. The psychiatrist, who arrived first, pronounced that the patient was "just fine." The anesthesiologist found that this