What are the Legal Ramifications of Assisting with a Medical Emergency During Flight?
Learning Objectives and CME/Disclosure Information
This activity is intended for healthcare providers delivering care to women and their families.
After completing this activity, the participant should be better able to:
1. State key elements from the Aviation Medical Assistance Act (AMAA) as it relates to providers being called to provide emergency care on airplanes during flight 2. Discuss when a provider may be at legal risk for assisting someone who is ill during flight
Estimated time to complete activity: 0.25 hours
Susan J. Gross, MD, FRCSC, FACOG, FACMG
President and CEO, The ObG Project
Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest
Postgraduate Institute for Medicine (PIM) requires faculty, planners, and others in control of educational content to disclose all their financial relationships with ineligible companies. All identified conflicts of interest (COI) are thoroughly vetted and mitigated according to PIM policy. PIM is committed to providing its learners with high quality accredited continuing education activities and related materials that promote improvements or quality in healthcare and not a specific proprietary business interest of an ineligible company.
The PIM planners and others have nothing to disclose. The OBG Project planners and others have nothing to disclose.
Faculty: Susan J. Gross, MD, receives consulting fees from Cradle Genomics, and has financial interest in The ObG Project, Inc.
Planners and Managers: The PIM planners and managers, Trace Hutchison, PharmD, Samantha Mattiucci, PharmD, CHCP, Judi Smelker-Mitchek, MBA, MSN, RN, and Jan Schultz, MSN, RN, CHCP have nothing to disclose.
Method of Participation and Request for Credit
Fees for participating and receiving CME credit for this activity are as posted on The ObG Project website. During the period from August 7 2018 through Jan 25 2023, participants must read the learning objectives and faculty disclosures and study the educational activity.
If you wish to receive acknowledgment for completing this activity, please complete the post-test and evaluation. Upon registering and successfully completing the post-test with a score of 100% and the activity evaluation, your certificate will be made available immediately.
For Pharmacists: Upon successfully completing the post-test with a score of 100% and the activity evaluation form, transcript information will be sent to the NABP CPE Monitor Service within 4 weeks.
Joint Accreditation Statement
In support of improving patient care, this activity has been planned and implemented by the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine and The ObG Project. Postgraduate Institute for Medicine is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.
Physician Continuing Medical Education
Postgraduate Institute for Medicine designates this enduring material for a maximum of 0.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
Continuing Nursing Education
The maximum number of hours awarded for this Continuing Nursing Education activity is 0.2 contact hours.
Airline travel is governed by a plethora of federal laws which are overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In most cases, aviation federal law will override state laws. An in-flight medical emergency, sparking the overhead announcement asking if a medical doctor is on board, is estimated to occur in about 1 of every 600 flights. The FAA mandates that U.S.–based airlines have first-aid kits with bandages and splints, at least one automated external defibrillator (AED), and at least one kit containing (among other things) a stethoscope, blood pressure meter, gloves, airway and breathing apparatus, intravenous access tools, and medications such as aspirin, bronchodilator inhaler, and epinephrine. The full kit contents do not cover pediatric nor obstetric emergencies.
United States healthcare providers traveling on registered U.S. airlines have no legal obligation to assist in the event of a medical emergency. Canada and the United Kingdom also do not require that a provider assist. However, providers may feel an ethical obligation to help. Australia and some countries in the European Union do impose a legal duty on physicians to act.
In 1998, Congress passed the Aviation Medical Assistance Act (AMAA) to protect medical providers who respond to in-flight medical emergencies from liability, thereby encouraging medical professionals to assist in emergencies. The care provided must be for a “medical emergency”, not routine care. The law is also limited to claims arising from domestic flights and most claims arising from international flights involving U.S. carriers or residents. International flights using international carriers may operate under other laws, thus making the requirement to render aid unclear.
When is a healthcare provider potentially at legal risk under the AMAA? A provider can be found liable for injury under this law if the patient can establish that the provider was “grossly negligent” or intentionally caused the alleged harm. The volunteer provider must be medically qualified and must not receive monetary compensation for services rendered. In addition, the provider is bound by HIPAA privacy rules, but airline personnel are not.
Note that the airline pilot is not obligated to divert the plane to a closer airport even if the medical provider recommends it – the decision to divert belongs solely to the pilot. For example, there may be other considerations, such as the plane’s maximum landing weight. If the plane still has a relatively full, heavy fuel tank following take-off, a landing may be potentially dangerous. Rather, the provider should offer a medical opinion and clearly communicate the urgency of the situation.
This website (the “Website”) is a service made available by The ObG Project LLC, its partners, affiliates or subsidiaries (“Provider”). This Website provides general information related to the law and is designed to help users safely cope with their own legal needs. This website does not provide legal advice and Provider is not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists or will be formed between you and Provider or any of our representatives.
This website is not intended to be a source for legal advice, and thus the reader should not rely on any information provided in this website as such. Readers should not consider the information provided to be an invitation for an attorney-client relationship, and should always seek the advice of competent counsel in the reader’s home jurisdiction. Provider may provide links to third party websites. These links are provided only as a convenience. Linked websites are not reviewed, controlled or examined by Provider and Provider is not responsible for the information, advertising, products, resources or other materials, of any linked site or any link contained in a linked site. The inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by Provider. In addition, please be aware that your use of any linked site is subject to the terms and conditions applicable to that site. Please direct any questions regarding linked sites to the webmaster of that site.
OBG Project CME requires a modern web browser (Internet Explorer 10+, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge). Certain educational activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of their content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, Windows Media Player, or Real Networks Real One Player.
Disclosure of Unlabeled Use
This educational activity may contain discussion of published and/or investigational uses of agents that are not indicated by the FDA. The planners of this activity do not recommend the use of any agent outside of the labeled indications.
The opinions expressed in the educational activity are those of the faculty and do not necessarily represent the views of the planners. Please refer to the official prescribing information for each product for discussion of approved indications, contraindications, and warnings.
Participants have an implied responsibility to use the newly acquired information to enhance patient outcomes and their own professional development. The information
presented in this activity is not meant to serve as a guideline for patient management. Any procedures, medications, or other courses of diagnosis or treatment discussed or suggested in this activity should not be used by clinicians without evaluation of their patient’s conditions and possible contraindications and/or dangers in use, review of any applicable manufacturer’s product information, and comparison with recommendations of other authorities.
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