A newly qualified doctor has her skills called upon during a holiday flight.

A Foundation year 1 doctor was returning from an overseas holiday just two months into her first FY1 post. Roughly six hours into an eight hour flight, an announcement was made asking for any doctors or nurses on board to make themselves known to cabin crew.

Unsure of what might have prompted this request, the FY1 doctor alerted a flight attendant and explained that she was a junior doctor. The flight attendant invited her to come to the galley further back in the plane, along with two other healthcare professionals who had made themselves known on the flight – an A&E nurse and a consultant anaesthetist. Once there, they were told about an elderly female passenger whose family were concerned she had become unresponsive.

All three went to assess the passenger. It was quickly evident that she had stopped breathing and no pulse was found. In conjunction with the other two healthcare professionals, the FY1 doctor assisted with CPR and was provided with equipment by the cabin crew. Unfortunately they could not resuscitate the passenger and the consultant anaesthetist, with the agreement of the FY1 doctor and the nurse, called a halt to the resuscitation after 40 minutes.

The FY1 doctor provided her name and contact details to the cabin crew and on her return to the UK, she contacted the MDU medico-legal helpline to discuss what had happened.  

MDU advice

The MDU adviser recommended that the FY1 doctor make a note of her own actions in assessing the passenger and participating in the resuscitation, in case she was asked to provide a report at a future date. She was advised it was best to make such notes as soon as possible after the events in question, and to keep them in case anyone should ask for them in the future.   

The MDU adviser reassured the FY1 doctor that as an MDU member, she was indemnified for any matters arising from a 'Good Samaritan' act anywhere in the world. She was invited to contact the MDU again if she received any correspondence or request in relation to the case. 

The FY1 doctor subsequently called the MDU telephone advice line two weeks later because she had been contacted directly by the Coroner's office, who had received her contact details from the cabin crew of the airline. The coroner was investigating the circumstances surrounding the passenger's death and asked the FY1 doctor to provide a factual report of her involvement in the resuscitation procedure carried out on the aircraft. 

The MDU adviser gave the FY1 doctor advice on how to go about drafting a report for the coroner and reassured her that the MDU would be happy to review the notes she had previously made and advise on her draft report. The MDU would also support and advise her throughout the process of the coroner's inquiry, up to and including attendance at a public hearing – an inquest – if that was ultimately required. 

This is a fictionalised case compiled from actual cases from the MDU's files.

This page was correct at publication on 06/07/2016. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.