Medical Emergency “In the Air”

Free «Medical Emergency In the Air» Essay Sample


In the contemporary world, the number of people who want to travel long distances is constantly growing. Similarly, the demographists point to the aging population in most well-developed countries. It means that more aging people consider traveling by air in order to negotiate great distances. This peculiarity becomes a considerable challenge for the aircraft industry. Despite the well-developed technologies, traveling by plane presumes the drops in pressure and enhanced level of anxiety, not even talking about the situations of emergency in which young and healthy people have more chances to survive. Consequently, to guarantee the safe and comfort traveling by air, the airlines should seriously consider the aging society and adjust its medical service in accordance with the customers’ demands.


The Growths is an aged couple that takes B747 plane, which belongs to the UK airline in order to get home to the United Kingdom from the South Africa. They take a direct flight that lasts for about 11-12 hours with the root coming through the poorly developed African areas. Peter Growth is a man of 60 who has been suffering from splendid headaches for several weeks before the flight. The local doctor was not capable of detecting the reason of man’s headaches; therefore, the diagnosis remains undiscovered up to the date of journey (Conut 2013). Being worried about the danger of using a plane in poor health condition, Peter Growth consults the doctor repeatedly on the day of flight; however, he is confirmed that there is no reason for any additional precautions.

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Nevertheless, during the flight man has a mental stroke that can hardly be treated without the sedative drugs. Within the short time, Peter Growth’s condition worsens. The behavior of this man begins to disturb the other passengers and, thus, this man becomes potentially dangerous for the lives and well-being of other people who travel by the same plain. Given the situation, the captain is supposed to make a decision as fast as possible. The main argument that the captain should consider is the safety and comfort of all passengers; that is why, it is natural to separate the source of danger and/or alleviate the negative impact. It means that Peter Growth should be either sedated or landed out to the nearest medical facility that can provide him with a needed medical assistance.

The captain consults with the dispatcher and medical experts and chases the last option. The dilemma is that a man can die if he does not get any professional medical help, but, at the same time, the half-deserted places of Nigeria does not provide a necessary medical facility either. What makes the things even worse is that nobody knows that Peter Growth’s health is suddenly deteriorated because of the tumor in his head that starts to press the brain in the result of pressure drops.

The man dies a month after this misfortune flight. A few months later his wife sends a letter of accusation to the UK airline. The woman points at the unethical behavior of the captain who decides to land out two passengers one of whom is seriously ill, without support of their stuff in an unknown place, which is far away from medical facility (Conut 2013).

The Aim of the Study

This case is worth to be studied because it helps to discover and address the weak points in the current system of the air crisis management. It is aimed at conducting a research on what is currently done to improve the medical service in the air. Besides, it is necessary to assess the issue from the commercial and public perspectives in order to detect the appropriate plan of behavior at all stages of crisis management. In simple terms, the purpose of this study is to provide alternative solutions and critically discuss their relevance.


The airline is supposed to ensure the safety to all its passengers; however, when providing safety to one passenger may endanger the safety and comfort of the other people onboard, the legal and ethical dilemma comes to the fore. In order to anticipate the occurrence of the incriminating situations, the company should constantly work on the improvement of its crisis management plan. To succeed in the accomplishment of this task, it is necessary to model potentially dangerous situation and work out the effective solutions to those issues. Moreover, the company must monitor every ethically debatable or compromising case, with the aim of identifying misdeeds and bottlenecks. Such preventive cautions might allow to develop and consider the relevant ways of providing safe flight conditions and high-quality services to each and every of it passengers (Goodwin 2000).

Therefore, it is necessary to detect the points of misconduct in the discussed case, in the first place. Firstly, the captain did not have ethical right to disembark the passengers in the middle of the flight. The captain is responsible for the well-being of people on board. Nevertheless, the captain represents the company he works for and reflects the knowledge, which was obtained during his training. Therefore, one can rightfully deduce that the legal and ethical responsibility serve to represent the airline since any misconduct in this regard would be consequently prosecuted if it comes to a lawsuit. Needless to say, being publicly reproached significantly affects company’s reputation and with time can even results in the company’ bankruptcy.

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A relatively smaller, but a considerably heavy share of responsibility rests with the captain since this person is the chief of the crew and is supposed to manage all crisis situations assuring safety and comfort to every passenger. It presumes that a person, who takes this leading position, is capable to adequately analyze the situation and make the right choices. Nonetheless, as was mentioned above, the captain performs in accordance with the statute, the neglect of which is punished. Consequently, the pilot training schools also possesses responsibility for inadequate crisis management.

Finally, the passengers are responsible for their own lives, and they should not create threatening situations for other people. Considering this complex nature of the discussed issue, it is appropriate to explore the actions of all responsible parts separately in order to be able to target every potential source of the problem more effectively. Therefore, the following sections will explore the performance of the UK airline, its captain, and the victim of the mistreatment.

Case Study Analysis

As it is known, in a case of emergency, the airline company assures a decent medical help ‘in the air’. It presumes that every plane is equipped with the first aid kits and specific medical equipment. Besides, the crew is trained to give the first aid to the passengers. In addition, there exist various plans for in-flight medical emergency situation based on the type of health issue a passenger has (Goodwin 2000). Moreover, the airline uses the service of the MedAire company that is specialized on the consulting the cases of emergency during flights. The above-mentioned facts testify that the UK airline seriously considers its responsibility to guarantee safe conditions to every passenger. In general terms, its plan of crisis management is well-elaborated; however, there are several suggestions that may help to improve the provided service.

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In particular, it is recommended to make an emergency map with the marked spots of landing fields with appropriate medical facilities. It would help the captain to weigh all the variables more effectively since the proximity of landing field does not guarantee the proper medical assistance. Moreover, the passengers should be required to have at least brief medical examination in the airport. In this case, the responsibility will be assigned to the doctors who work in the airport. Furthermore, after such medical examination, the passengers should be asked to sign the papers where they claim that their health condition allows travelling by air. The paper is supposed to be a document that proves that the passengers take full responsibility for concealing their health problems, which may pose potential danger for the other people onboard and the crew. These innovations would eliminate or, at least, inhibit the spread of numerous diseases. Besides, this approach is aimed at enhancing the clients’ responsibility for their own safety. After all, people must remember that they should not endanger the lives of other passengers.

Moreover, the airline should have contacts with the Growth family by expressing diligent concerns and interest in the well-being of the passengers that experienced problem onboard, after the flight. This idea refers to the effective crisis communication. In particular, the responsible authority is supposed to “express empathy, show respect and promote actions” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 2). This action would have characterized the aircraft company as a responsible and customer-oriented service provider. In addition, it would have been recommended for the company to provide assistance to Julie Growth.

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For instance, first of all, it is appropriate to send a letter with excuses, explanations and condolences. The company should have explained that the pressure drops inside the cabin increased an intracranial pressure. As the result, it enhanced the tumor’s pressure on the part of the brain thus causing man’s inadequate behavior. The airline should stress that initially the undiscovered reason of Peter Growth’s headaches (which refers to poor medical consulting) became the reason of all misfortunes. Moreover, the company should have covered the respective expenses for the couple, including for their additional flight since the married couple was not delivered to the arrival point as initially intended.

As far as the actions of the captain are concerned, it is appropriate to state that the decision to land out his passengers half way home is highly debatable. Firstly, the clients paid for their flight and, thus, had the right to be delivered to the point of their final destination. Secondly, they did not agree with the captain decision to land them out in Nigeria, which means that their voice remained unheard. This approach is defective because the clients’ wishes should be always taken into consideration. Finally, continuing the flight without ‘troublesome passengers’ does not reduce captain’s responsibility for their safety on land.

What makes the things even worse is that, in this situation, the captain has a decent alternative: to sedate Peter and continue the flight. On the one hand, this decision has ethical risks because the nature of illness was unknown and, thus, it was hard to guarantee that sedative drugs were permitted. Besides, a man could have died without professional medical help before the plane landed in the UK’s airport.

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Despite the above-stated omissions, in general, the captain’s performance is can be justified because he endeavored to separate potential source of danger from other passengers. Therefore, one can deduce that the ethical dilemma is provoked not by the decision itself, but lays more in a way in which captain’s endeavor was realized.

When providing an in-depth evaluation of this case, it is also necessary to mention that the training center should expand the curriculum to include the studying of similar situations. Moreover, it is suggested to make the manuals with the detailed explanations of how to behave and what to expect in different cases of emergency. The passengers should be introduced with the set of proper rules, actions and reactions before and while they are onboard.

Findings and Recommendations

First and foremost, it is necessary to stress that crisis management is more serious than managing an incident. In particular, crisis is defined as a lack of resources needed to prevent or solve the incident. In other words, crisis happens when “the required resources are not readily available or are beyond the capabilities of the organization responsible for providing immediate emergency attention” (Penuel, Statler & Hagen, 2013, p. 511). The following definition provides a clear insight into the issue: crisis “occurs unexpectedly, may not be in the organization’s control, requires an immediate response” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 28). In addition, it “may cause harm to the organization’s reputation, image, or viability” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 28). Therefore, it is important to admit that the level of stress and anxiety of every participant is even greater than during the incident. For example, in the discussed case, the worsening health condition of Peter Growth predetermines the occurrence of crisis. Simultaneously, the nearest appropriate medical facility was hours away from the plane and there were no way to make a professional conclusion whether or not the man could survive till the end of journey.

The airline should make a strict plan of actions in particular crisis situations based on the type of crisis that should be easily identified. The experts emphasize, “crisis management is often subject to a set of policies” (Penuel, Statler & Hagen, 2013, p. 512). It is not surprising because such approach allows acting fast. To eliminate the misunderstandings and/or conflict of interests, the company is recommended to introduce the clients to its policies. Nonetheless, it would be even more effective if all companies that provide similar services would agree to adhere to the same policies.

This multilateral approach and the unity of policies is especially relevant in the contemporary world because versatile nations are increasingly aging. According to some estimates, “by 2030, the number of U.S. adults aged 65 or older will more than double to about 71 million” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 3)­. A worldwide aging popularity presumes that “an increased demand on public health systems—medical and social services are taxed as well” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 3). The scholars predict that “in-flight emergencies will increase as more elderly passengers fly greater distances” (Goodwin 2000). Therefore, there is an urgent necessity to combine the efforts of all airlines and the aviation training centres in order to assure the availability of an effective policy of crisis management in different situations. 

Despite the fact that the company is responsible for clients’ safety and well-being, the captain is the person who is supposed to take actions in a crisis situation, which means that he is the main crisis management figure. Consulting with AirMed as well as with the dispatcher is the right decision because the situation requires group decision-making approach. Nevertheless, the pilots should be trained to manage the crisis effectively on the spot, from the very beginning. For example, it is critically important for the captain to acknowledge the proper ways of communicating the core problem and the potential way of its solution to the relevant stakeholders. This goal assumes mastering effective public spokesman’s and negotiating techniques.

On a similar note, the captain should be capable to assess the audience properly. Specifically, it is recommended for a captain to evaluate Julie Growth’s “physical and psychological relationship to the event” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 52). Comprehending the condition of this woman, the captain would have been able to generate a more effective way to conduct his message. In addition, it is also suggested to take into account a person’s “current subject knowledge and experience, including age, geographic location and religious believes” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, p. 53). In the event that the above-stated variable have been considered by the captain, it would have assured a constructive and fruitful communication between him and Julie Growth.

Moreover, effective communication presumes the ability to comfort and reassure. In other words, it suggests expressing empathy. The professional reassurance is critically important during crisis management; however, it should not gain a form of any deceptive promises. Instead, it is recommended to acknowledge the uncertainty because it is clearly sensible in crisis situations. Simultaneously, assessing the discussed case, it was important for the captain to assure Julie Growth that her opinion was heard, and the actions taken aimed at providing the most effective care to her and her husband.

What is more, the current circumstances of the increased international travels combined with the aging population require constant improvements of the in-flight medical assistance. For instance, it is reasonable to equip the emergency rooms onboard and include a clinician into the aircraft crew. This approach would enhance company’s liability. By this preventive approach, the airline would be able to promote itself creating the reputation of a responsible, caring and reliable company that provides high quality transportation services.

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On the contrary, the neglect of responsibility harms the reputation, which can lead to the decrease of profits leave alone the potential bankruptcy. From the standpoint of such negative outcomes, it is critically important to understand that the spread of negative word of mouth happens through the mass media and social networks. Therefore, effective management of a post-crisis stage presumes the elaboration and delivery of a proper public claims with the aim to save company’ reputation. This aspect is especially important for protecting commercial interests of the airline.  


Summing up the above-mentioned, it is important to understand that there is no single correct approach that can be employed to solve the occurrence of crisis in the air. Furthermore, there are no strict rules that can help to avoid the ethical and even legal issues related to those hazards to emerge. Nevertheless, the aircraft companies should strive to improve the services they provide including the advancement of medical treatment.

In particular, it is recommended to create the emergency rooms in every plane and launch the position of an onboard doctor as the obligatory member of the airship crew. Besides, it is appropriate to advance medical examination in the airports in order to minimize the risk of ill people coming on board. Moreover, it is necessary to assign to passengers the responsibility for their own health and the health status of the other persons in the plane. Furthermore, the crisis management should be effective on all its stages, and the best way to succeed with this goal is to conduct a proper communication with a person (publicity). Thus, the company and its partners and stakeholders are supposed to learn the techniques of the effective communication during crisis management.