Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Ethics

How should I respond to an in-flight emergency?

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 08 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:j5151
  1. Marika Davies, medicolegal adviser, Medical Protection

Marika Davies, a medicolegal adviser, gives advice on some common ethical dilemmas faced by medical students

Dear Marika

On the flight home from my elective, the airline crew put out a call for medical personnel as a passenger was unwell. Fortunately, a doctor was on board and assisted the patient. Should I have volunteered if nobody else did, even if I’m only a medical student?

Marika replies

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 …

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