Do flight attendants treat heart attacks? 10 things to know before an airline emergency.

Airline Emergency

Man collapses at 30,000 feet. Quick, who’s in charge? Hint: it’s not the doctor. Last month, Dr. Tamika Cross was told to sit down when she tried to help an unresponsive man. Why? Apparently the flight attendant was looking for an “actual” medical doctor, not a black woman. Turns out she’s not the only doc making headlines for being turned down in a medical crisis. What in the world is going on up there? I interviewed pilots, flight attendants, and physicians to find out. Here’s what I discovered:

1) A sick passenger can cost an airline $100,000—or more. Think transoceanic diversion to nearest city. Hundreds of grumpy people. All need hotels, meals, new flights. Plus there may be a dead guy on board, a legal investigation, and relatives to notify.

2) Medical kits may be unstocked. Should all FAA-approved flights have oxygen, epinephrine, a functioning defibrillator? Yes. Do they? Not always.

3) Flight attendants are underpaid. Guess how much these smiley greeters are paid to get you blankets, pillows, and help you to your seat. Nothing. They only get paid when the plane is moving. Average starting salary: $18 per flight hour. Yep, they eat airline food, get jet-lagged, and deal with rowdy passengers, terrorists, and medical emergencies—all for $18 per hour. Shocking fact #2: a couple of young pilots told me they also started at $18 per hour. Hauling hundreds of humans at 500 mph. For big bucks pilots fly FedEx cargo. Hauling envelopes.

4) There’s no place to put your body. No gurney. No exam room. No convenient spot to lie down. So you’ll be on the galley floor (like both people I treated on planes).

5) You will disrupt drink service. Not only will your medical crisis be viewed by a bunch of gawkers with cell phones, you may piss off the crew who can’t wheel the snack cart over your body. Trust me. You will be in the way.

6) Flight attendants have limited medical skills. With just a GED or high school diploma, 3-8 weeks of flight training, and some CPR, these folks are handling medical catastrophes in the air. So, yes, the gal who poured your Pepsi may be treating your heart attack.

7) The flight attendant picks your doctor. If three docs respond to the call for help, how do they choose? Pilots, physicians, and passengers agree—pick the most qualified. Can a flight attendant actually judge the skills of an ob/gyn chief resident, an infectious disease fellow, and a retired rheumatologist? Maybe that’s why 70% of flight attendants told me they take the first person who shows up. Unless implicit bias selects the white guy over the black woman who arrives first.

Pamela Wible Airline Emergency

8) The best doctor may be buzzed. Do we go with the sober rheumatologist or the chief resident post-Kahlua? Maybe the best doctor is a Muslim ICU nurse (they don’t drink).

9) Crew may obstruct care until doctor shows “credentials.” Docs don’t carry pocket-sized diplomas, yet crew must see credentials before accessing medical kits. Do you really want a doctor ruffling through her carry on for a hospital badge while you’re on the floor?

10) The doctor may still get sued. Liability varies by country. While the Good Samaritan law “should” protect you in the USA, nothing prevents a passenger (or next of kin) from calling an attorney. Some airlines offer indemnity but only if the crew initiates the call for help (not if doctor proactively offers). Given poor medical outcomes in the friendly skies, do you think the average doc wants to absorb all that liability

Frankly, I’m amazed anyone volunteers at all—and actually makes it to the passenger in time. How can two highly regulated industries intersect in such chaos? And what’s the fix?

Besides the obvious (stock medical kits), here’s my advice: 1) Mandate diversity training for crew—led by black female physicians. Contact Artemis Medical Society to schedule. 2) Prescreen for medical credentials. Lufthansa does this. Model what works. 3) Allow medical professionals to assemble themselves. Health care is a team sport.

One final request: please thank any doc who willingly stands up to implicit bias, grabs a half-empty medical kit, and risks personal liability (while on vacation) to save your butt—for no pay!

Now who thinks our medical professionals should board first along with active duty military?

Addendum: Thrilled to announce that as a result of these courageous docs stepping forward, Delta airlines has changed their policies.

Pamela Wible, M.D., is a physician who reports on human rights violations in medicine. Have a story? Contact Dr. Wible.

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29 comments on “Do flight attendants treat heart attacks? 10 things to know before an airline emergency.
  1. Donald says:

    a pitiful comment on the state of affairs under the false concept of American Exceptionalism yet truth via the Concept of Perpetual Human Stupidity. In this country, the Untied States of Anemia medical personal are protected from malpractice frivolity by Good Samaritan laws.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Good Sam Laws should protect US docs. I actually could not find any cases of docs being sued. So good news!

  2. Erin says:

    Periodically, NEJM provides really helpful articles on this subject!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yes, I’ve seen many good journal articles online though none address the process of selecting the doc (or medical professional) in charge. Entire algorithm for in-flight medical care could be improved. Some airlines (Japan airlines and Lufthansa) are quite progressive in this area.

      • Raymond Bertino says:

        Some of the comments have expressed concerns about medicolegal liability that might be incurred by assisting in in flight medical events. Medicolegal concerns are probably most acute in the United States. Perhaps recognizing this, United States law protects individuals assisting for In Flight Medical Events. Public Law 105–170, passed April 24, 1998 states:
        An individual shall not be liable for damages in any action brought in a Federal or State court arising out of the acts or omissions of the individual in providing or attempting to provide assistance in the case of an in-flight medical emergency unless the individual, while rendering such assistance, is guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
        The implication of the above law is that in order for a plaintiff to successfully bring a suit in the United States, he/she would have to show a level of misconduct significantly higher than that used in standard malpractice cases. This gives strong protection for a physician assisting in an in-flight event.
        Secondly, I wish to tell your readers about a non profit cell-phone/iPad app that has recently come on the market, airRx. airRx is meant to be used in in flight medical emergencies. The app is being updated to include the ability to store images of one’s credentials. It will not be a perfect solution to the credentials issues you have written about but it will help. 
        airRx includes data on how to treat 23 different in flight medical scenarios that constitute the great majority of events that occur in flight. It also includes information about medications and equipment carried on board, flight physiology, the role of the cabin crew and flight crew with recommendations of how to communicate effectively with them, and the role of ground medical support.

        The app was written by a group of physicians including internationally recognized experts in aerospace medicine, by emergency medicine physicians along with physicians along with 2 radiologists. I am the head of the group who authored the app. We founded a non-profit company to produce and market the app. It is on Android and Apple platforms and has been on the market for a few months. The cost of the app is $4.99.

        Up until now, we have marketed to physicians. We have more recently had the app reviewed by an RN and EMT-P. We plan to make minor modifications and then start to market to RNs, APNs, EMTs and PAs.

        Above is a link to the Air and Space Smithsonian blog that has an article describing the app. Also, there is a link to the Facebook page of the app. You may wish to look on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to see more information and screen shots.

  3. Joyce says:

    We check our code carts regularly, why not have medical kits with seals on every flight and if there isn’t a seal then they have to get one that is! They also have to store plain old band aids and such outside this kit. What goes in the kits? The FAA should talk with ER docs AND nurses to see what supplies would be most helpful. The kits should be assembled in advance with an expiration date of the item within that will expire first. So all that the flight attendants need do is check that the seal is intact and the date is appropriate. Airports could keep these things stocked and have sealed kits on hand and ready to go.

    Did you know that in the early years of passenger flight most flight attendants were RNs? That might be overkill now, but why on earth couldn’t they have basic EMT training?

    Of course…that would make sense, so it won’t happen! :\

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      It seems that most of the kits are properly stocked (but not always per Dr. Janelle Evans. From speaking to the flight attendants I understand there are 3 types of medical kits onboard. 1) First aid (simple stuff, BandAids) 2) Medical kits with BP monitor and other non-Rx supplies. 3) The drugs. The drug kit is sealed and can only be opened post credential display by medical personnel.

      I had no idea flight attendants used to be RNs. I think these long flights overseas should have some medical personnel onboard prescreened. EMT onboard would be awesome!

    • Carol says:

      I don’t know who the doctor talked to but she really doesn’t know what she is talking about. The FAs have to do a equipment check before EACH fight. The enhanced medical kit has a lead seal on it and must be intact. If not, it will be replaced. It’s a no go item. The EMK has a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope on the out side and can be used by more medical professionals. The EMK can only be used by a MD or DO. There is a medical kit, also lead sealed, that contains bandaids, etc. American Airlines was the first airline to have AEDs. In the first 10 years, we saved 100 lives with them.
      I was a FA for AA for 35 years. I flew Purser (lead FA) for 22 years. I had more medical emergencies than I can count or remember. The emergencies are a very stressful time. There are no carts trying to roll over bodies. We are trained to move the PAX to the most non conspicuous space on the airplane. We are all certified by the FAA. FAs are professionals, but rarely are looked at as such. This Doctor is so off base on so many counts. It’s a great day when all I had to do was serve cokes.

  4. Gayle Esposito says:

    I didn’t experience a heart attack, but I was violently ill on a plane. I volunteer for a national disease specific organization. I was coming home to Atlanta from a long weekend conference and lobbying effort held in Washington, D.C. in March of this year. I stayed in a 4 star hotel next to the Capitol. We had artfully prepared, tasty meals, some served in the ballroom, but most of them served via beautiful buffets. When I headed home Monday night, I felt a little queasy before I got on the plane, but chalked it up to the non stop pace of the conference and meetings. Thirty minutes after the plane took off, I was feeling more than queasy. I hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt dizzy and nauseous. As soon as the seat belt sign went off, I headed for the bathroom. I made three more trips to the bathroom, each time feeling worse than before. By the third time, I was was violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea. I cleaned myself up, attempted to make sure the bathroom was clean, and the feeling abated enough for me to feel I could make it back to my seat. As I left the bathroom, the stewardess asked if I had motion sickness. I assured her I didn’t but that I felt very ill. She tried to get me to take dramamine for motion sickness. I told her I had to drive home from the airport so dramamine was not an option, and I absolutely knew it wasn’t motion sickness. I can read in the backseat of a car on a curvy road or bounce up and down all day on a flight and feel fine. She said dramamine was all she could offer me. Soon I felt badly again. The fourth trip to the bathroom, I felt like if I didn’t throw up, I might end up being carried off of the plane. It was a terrifying experience and the worse nightmare imaginable involving plane travel. I was entering the bathroom for the last time precisely as the pilot said we were going down for the landing. The stewardess stopped me and said I had to go back to my seat because we were landing. I told her I was going to have diarrhea and throw up in a matter of seconds. I said I could go into the toilet or I could lay down in the galley with vomiting and diarrhea. She was quite irritated and said that was unacceptable, but she handed me a huge plastic bag (the size of a kitchen garbage bag), and I entered the toilet. I sat on the toilet praying for vomiting and diarrhea. Finally, as we touched down, I held onto the wall and vomited into the bag. After I had tied the top of the bag, I crawled out of the toilet and gave the bag to the stewardess, not knowing what else to do. She was visibly upset, as if had any control over being sick. As I staggered along the aisle toward my seat, my fellow passengers were very solicitous, asking if I was okay. Meanwhile, the pilot had not let anyone disembark because the stewardess told him I was in the toilet. Talk about embarrassing – which it would have been if I had not been so worried about being carried off in a stretcher – feeling that bad took priority over anything. After I got back to my seat, I began to feel better. By the time I got my luggage off the carousel, the nausea was gone. It was 10:00 at night, and I drove home with no problem. I was somewhat tired when I got home, but otherwise I was okay. I knew it was food poisoning, probably courtesy of the tasty buffet bar. I’ve always thought being sick on a plane would be awful, but this was so much worse.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Oh Gayle, I’m so sorry this happened to you. Air travel is never great for sick passengers. Glad it passed and you got home safe.

  5. Jenny Welham says:

    I was on a flight that called for medical personal. I volunteered and found an 18 month old who was purple and seizing. I performed CPR and she came to after spitting up blood tinged mucus. I was on a JetBlue flight. The flight attendant and other passengers were extremely grateful, but I never received any thank from the airline. I was on another flight that the same flight attendant was on and responded to another request for medical personnel. This time there was a 20-something female with severe abdominal pain. She may have been going through withdrawal from drugs, but didn’t admit to any drug use. I could have asked to divert the flight for an acute abdomen, but I sat with the woman and kept her calm until we landed. Once again, no thanks or acknowledgement from the airline that my husband actually flies for. Pilots may get the same treatment as physicians. I’m assuming they are so burnt out that they couldn’t muster a thank you or even a card to express gratitude for saving an 18 month old’s life or for saving them $100,000 from a diverted flight. My state where I practice has a culture that fosters gratitude and I get thanked everyday for the care I provide and I thank the other providers I work with for the care they provide to my patients. They go above and beyond every day. Otherwise, I don’t know if it would be worth it to work 12 to 16 hour days. My husband says, “Your children, God, and I see what you do and you know that you are doing the right thing. Why does it matter what anyone else thinks?”

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      One thing that is not mentioned is that if you are given anything more than a “thank you” it could undermine the protection afforded by Good Samaritan Laws (as this perk or gift could be perceived as payment). I also did not receive much of a thanks or anything from helping on 2 flights. On one they offered me some wine. I don’t drink.

  6. Eli says:

    Boarding first with military personnel would be nice, but then again, how do we define “medical personnel”? Do medical students, medical assistants, histology techs, radiology techs board first, too? These people are a vital part of the medical team, but they may not be qualified to run a code…

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Excellent question and I would defer to airline that are already doing this (Lufthansa and Japan Air).See link in article. I would assume those with medical credentials who are willing and able to handle emergencies ad pre-register with the airlines prior to flight.

  7. Bryan Jick MD says:

    Here is my story.

    I was flying home alone to L.A. on American Airlines from an ob/gyn meeting in Wash DC, sitting on an aisle seat, watching a movie, maybe 2-3 rows from the bulkhead.

    I could see just a couple rows behind me and in the opposite section, there was commotion. Two attendants were leaning over a middle-aged woman who was slumped over in her seat.

    I really wanted to enjoy my movie but I just knew that any moment there was going to be an overhead page for “ any physician on the plane.” I was right.

    I responded, of course, and as soon as I walked over and said “Hi, I am a doctor” the attendant said, “I need to see your medical license.”

    It was in my wallet so I showed it to her. They let me proceed, and they handed me a stethoscope. The “patient” was traveling with her sister, who told me she was in good health, said she was not feeling well, and then she slumped over. I could see she was breathing but not responsive. I tried to listen to her heart, but the roar of the engines was so loud I heard nothing. I tried to take a blood pressure, same problem. I took a chance and just assumed the lady fainted. Three of us managed to move her to the bulkhead row (just 2 rows in front of my seat), laid down a blanket first, and then positioned her flat on the blanket. Then I sat back down.

    The attendant quickly brought me an incident report form to fill out. She then asked me if I wanted the pilot to “divert the plane” to land in Phoenix, the closest major city by then.

    I did not think this was necessary. I also was amazed at the power they were giving me, to make a decision that an entire planeload of people would be forced to land at the wrong airport.

    Five minutes later, the lady sat up and looked around. They brought her some water, and soon she was back in her seat. The 2 sisters waved to me and said thank you. The attendant said nothing and did nothing, except she did collect my report form after I filled it out. I was thinking maybe I might get a glass of champagne or something. Nope, not a word of thanks. Later at home I was thinking they might send me a thank you letter. No again. A month later I was angry. They gave me the power to divert a plane and the responsibility to take care of an in-flight emergency which ended well (thank goodness). But I did not get a single thank you from any of the airline staff, nor any follow-up afterwards. I had read once that they just assume that most flights have a doctor and since we doctors are so committed to what we do, they know we will help if called.

    I wrote a letter describing the above. A while later, American Airlines wrote me back, thanking me, and they added 15,000 miles to my frequent flyer account. Oh, they also apologized for not acknowledging my help at the time.

    I now wonder if this were to happen again, would the risks of “helping” outweigh the “benefits”? If this were an informed consent question, would I proceed, or decline?


    Bryan S. Jick, MD, FACOG
    Board Certified Ob/Gyn
    Fair Oaks Women’s Health
    625 S Fair Oaks Ave, Suite 255
    Pasadena, CA 91105

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Good that you were prepared with credentials. I had the SAME problem when trying to do any type of auscultation. IMPOSSIBLE. All I could hear was the jet engine. Also hard to converse and get a good history for the same reason so felt like veterinary medicine in a way. As far as a “thanks” there isn’t usually one from the airline. In fact if you accept anything of any monetary value it could undermine your ability to be protected by Good Sam laws and therefore open you up to some liability. Seems for the airline these medical emergencies are rather routine. For the doc on the floor of the galley with a passenger it’s anything but routine. The entire thing is kind of surreal at 30,000 feet.

  8. Pamela Wible MD says:

    Doctors writes me:

    If there are any emergencies on airplanes….I will slump in down in my chair and pretend not to be there. It kills me to do this, but I don’t want the liability.

  9. MIchele A Scott, MD says:

    I don’t fly much, but if I did, I would probably play dumb.
    Like Prissy in “Gone with the Wind” I’m gonna cry and squeal and exclaim that
    “I don’t know nuthin’ about birthin’ no babies!” Or treatin’ no heart attacks. Now, I might do a quick Heimlich because that is fast and exciting. But I do not want to get dragged into anyone else’s drama because there is no appreciation and no guarantee that I won’t get my ass sued off in the whole process, lives saved or not. Admittedly, it would be hard for me to stay back and do nothing. If the patient is very sick, very young, very old, very frightened, etc it would be nearly impossible not to help in some way. But not as a medical doctor. More like a nurse, since I always being mistaken for one anyway. But that’s another story!

  10. Natalia says:

    Well for me Thanks to God such cases were seldom, but as usual (I have certain luck for major emergencies)those seldom were dramatic. First case was 10 years ago on KLM, flight New York Amsterdam. Young woman fainted with hypoxia.There were at least 6 first responders, but all of them stood around and were making their recommendations so I asked them to shut up and help me.They refused and left. We were already close to Amsterdam,so no need to change route. I disembarked her myself with some airport clerk- no ambulance came(!!)to gate,to airport medical facility by wheelchair,where she was taken to hospital with preliminary diagnosis cerebral ischemia. Surprisingly for me pilots did notify an airport about her,so it is bizarre that nobody came from medics to the plane. Second one it was a child 4 y.o with anaphylaxis to peanuts. What were parents thinking I do not know actually. Allergy was known and old. Again 2 “advisors” advised me not to touch child. I am not US Doctor I am from Europe,so this kind of offer I consider outrageous.Especially when child “goes” on your eyes. So I sent them rudely far. And managed with child,who responded on my therapy promptly.Personnel did not bother me too much with license and gave their bag. After I showed them my copy of diploma and they were satisfied. Well. Parents then refused ambulance, they signed paper, and I got cup of coffee also with case before I got coffee:)You know doctors….coffee…..It was also KLM. The most dramatic was SAS and flight from Seattle to Stockholm. Well again Thanks to God it did not start yet the flight when one of the pilots fainted near gate. People were frozen. I rushed there and shouted to call ambulance. He had hypertension and transient ischemic attack. I provided him first help(diuretics etc),then came ambulance (let say in 25 min) and took him. Funny thing that I had coach place(the flight before I sat near toilet where is pantry, because it was overbooked) and before this flight I was notified I might not catch this flight.So when in 4 hours they started to board(came other pilot) ,gate personnel called me ……I thought “ok, then,next what?he died or smt or I will stay here for next 2 days??”this was my thinking…..And when I came to desk there was a guy from company. He told me the pilot is better and recovering. And they “noticed” I am flying with coach….so they want to change my place from my coach to 1st class seat (!!!)basically this guy went to my seat and me I went to his 1st class (!!!)To say I was amazed not to say anything:)))))
    Other than that was some insignificant cases like hypoglycemia(forgot to eat) ,bronchial asthma (forgotten spray) and paper scratch(dangerous ticket….this case it was kind of mental, but anyway passenger wanted a professional physician to put him personnel called for one. All on KLM. And all of them awarded me with cup of coffee:)
    Let say the most memorable case in my life was not in plane, but in the bus from Riga to S.Petersburg 20 years ago where I managed with labors. So I got a “son”:))))))))Lady was strange, 2nd pregnancy and 40th week she was going to visit friends(on her place I would go to maternity house),so labors went very fast. At 3 am in the middle of nowhere on the road between forests. I was sleeping when heard that people look for doctor. First thought was that driver had cardiac attack, because he was very pale (got scared :)),but then he showed me this “miraculous” passenger. I managed to collect all necessary tools:)people were very cooperative (fresh towels, alcohol 🙂 and then we went to hospital(70 km from this place) and both mother and baby were in excellent condition with no complications. Apgar 9-10:)The bus company found me and gave me ticket for 1 year to go with them wherever (they go all over the Europe) and 80% discount for 2nd passenger. I think it is very honorable.

  11. Pamela Wible MD says:

    Per Paul Conti MD:

    I have, however, had several incidents of being called to help on a plane. My first reaction is always to hope that there is a real doctor on board as well. When there hasn’t been, all incidents save one have been straight-forward, such as dehydration syncope in a hung-over young guy, etc. However, I had one case of refractory seizures without evidence of diabetes, and I did ask them to land the plane, as the seizures were becoming more frequent and more severe. Before we landed, I discovered insulin syringes, etc. and was able to get some sugar in him. Nonetheless, quite stressful. Thank goodness, though, United Airlines was so grateful that they gave me a gift card for a cold chicken sandwich. Really, a cold chicken sandwich that I think they took off of someone’s plate, but I couldn’t be sure! Ah the glory.

    I should have added that at the outset, a stewardess reading from a manual was arguing with me, until I just couldn’t stand it any more and insisted that she go away!

    • Natalia says:

      In my case it was one woman, who claimed she was an associate professor of medicine or something and she told me first to give to child(the one with anaphylaxis) a water fast at least 1 liter and then wait for 10 min to respond…..So I told her ,that if here would be Holy water I would, but since airline does not carry such stuff,she can relax and mind her business. There are some people who do not have common sense at all.
      Cold chicken…..well for me was hot coffee, no sugar and not milk:))))

  12. Martin Klos says:

    In many states there is no protection for doctors under Good Samaritan laws. In Oregon I know a lot of doctors, nurses and Paramedics that now drive around accidents and not stop to help after the legislators (and lawyers) exempted doctors from the GS law. The liability is too high.

    I don’t know the GS rules on airplanes, but even with ER training and Anesthesia training behind me I don’t feel enough like McGiver to make up for the lack of equipment on airplanes. I used to have more first aid equipment (and working Oxygen) on my little 4 passenger private airplane than most airliners have.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      So many complexities here. As someone with OCD perfectionism who seeks the truth this topic has really captivated me—and kept me busy.

  13. Pamela Wible MD says:

    Another doc tells me:

    “While on a flight from Phoenix to Houston with my family on Southwest Airlines the flight attendant asked if there was a doctor on board. I raised my hand as I was in the front of the plane in line to use the lavatory. Turns out there was a man on board who was a decompensated schizophrenic who was also on street drugs. As they gave me the headset to speak with the medical team on the ground, it turns out they had nothing on board to help him. He told me he had a history of violence so I took the aisle seat and he the window. The only thing I could give him was 50 mg  Benadryl and keep him calm, hoping he would not attack me. We talked for two hours and when we landed in Houston the paramedics took him off the plane. Thank God it worked out okay. My family and I got off the plane, spent a week in Houston and a month later to my surprise Southwest sent me a round trip ticket to anywhere they fly. Honestly I wasn’t expecting anything but it was a nice gesture.” ~ Dario Lizarraga, MD

  14. Aleca says:

    Paula Wible, MD-I am appalled at the sheer ignorance stated here by numerous people; yourself included. The condescending tone and patronizing generalizations “…you may piss off the crew who can’t roll the snack cart over your body.” Extremely insulting. And as far as making sure anyone who responds has credentials? Of course we protect the pax. What if someone who watches medical shows thinks they are now qualified to respond as medical personnel? It’s called being careful.

    I am a flight attendant for a major US carrier and I can assure you we do not leave without proper medical kits on board, an AED as well as first aid kits. My colleagues and I receive intensive training on use of the AED and know CPR as well as how to deal with other medical emergencies; diabetic coma, contagious diseases amongst others.

    I find it very disrespectful that we are all assumed to be barely high school graduates when most of us hold a degree from a college or university. We have RN’s, EMT’s, psychologists, firefighters, MBA’s, PA’s, teachers, college professors who choose to also fly in order to take advantage of the flight benefits offered.

    I have performed CPR and used an AED on a passenger myself, and we have always gratefully and profusely thanked medical personnel any time they had the grace to respond.

    Doctors who slump down and hide in their seats? Shameful.

    I sincerely hope you do not have a practice where you treat actual people as you are so woefully uniformed about what actually goes on in a medical emergency on a plane-if you could not be bothered to do proper research to write an accurate article, how do you keep up-to-date with your own field’s medical advancements?

    And yes, “…the gal who poured your Pepsi may be the one treating your heart attack.”

    When you live because no doctor wanted to respond but the Pepsi-pouring gal, trained for such an event does, you should be grateful nothing is like you stated in your article.

  15. A flight attendant says:

    I am a flight attendant and married to an ER doc. We both have read your misinformed article. I generally stay away from commenting on articles disseminating such misinformation, but I can’t help myself. Let me comment on your points: 1. Yes, it is expensive to land a plane for a sick passenger, but I have never known any pilot who would not divert for an ill passenger regardless of the cost. 2. Crews check medical and first aid kits before every flight. They should always be fully stocked. If something was used on a previous flight it is written up and restocked. In my 30 years of flying, I have never come across a “half-empty medical kit. 3. I don’t see what the flight attendants pay has to do with response to an ill passenger. 4. You are correct. There is no place to put the body, galley or aisle, that’s it. 5. When I had a woman on my flight who was having a seizure (she was recently diagnosed with brain cancer) the guy next to her didn’t care, he just wanted his diet coke. People are selfish. 6. I do have a masters degree, (very few flight attendants have only a high school diploma) and I am trained yearly on basic skills such as the use of AED, CPR, and treatment of various other illnesses. 7. Yes, when asking for help from a medical professional I will take whoever is willing to help. Often a few people come forward and I expect that as professionals they will work together to give the best care to the passenger. 8. Yes, maybe. 9. A few years ago we were required to see credentials before allowing Dr. or nurse or EMT to give care. Not anymore, as my airline (one of the big 3) has changed that policy. We now get information after the passenger has been taken care of.

    I know that not all docs have these condescending views of flight attendants nor would they think twice about helping someone without thinking “what am I going to get out of this”. Really disappointed by this article.

  16. M. Higley says:

    Utterly disrespectful and ignorant article. Please do some research before publishing this nonsense . I suppose all doctors are jerks and are overpaid . You owe the Flight Attendant community an apology.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I apologize for anyone who I have offended. This information has come from interviewing many doctors who have been treated in a disrespectful way by airline staff during medical emergencies as documented in TIME magazine here and Washington Post article.

      I also interviewed pilots and flight attendants in San Francisco airport.

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