Ethics & law
How should I respond to an in-flight emergency?
Marika Davies, a medicolegal adviser, gives advice on some common ethical dilemmas faced by medical students
Waking up to the call, “Is there a doctor on board?” is a prospect that can fill the hearts of medical students with dread and excitement. Dread that you might not know what to do, and excitement that one day you will have the skills and competence to be able to step forward confidently in a medical emergency.
In this case it was fortunate that there was a doctor on board, although a medical qualification does not necessarily make someone competent to assist—for example, he or she might be highly specialised in a non-acute area of medicine. Although he or she may be a willing volunteer, as a medical student you could have skills and experience that are helpful in an emergency situation, such as basic life support training.
If no-one who is suitably qualified is available to assist in an emergency, you will need to consider whether you should