Articles and Case Studies

Is There a Doctor on Board This Flight?

27 Oct 2011

Doctors are commonly asked by cabin staff to volunteer their services to assist passengers who are unwell whilst flying.


It has been estimated that an in-flight emergency occurs in one in 10-40,000 passengers. While approximately 70% of these incidents are managed by the cabin staff, in the remaining cases health professionals are asked to provide Good Samaritan assistance.

Causes of in-flight emergencies Common causes of in-flight emergencies include collapse or syncope, gastrointestinal complaints, motion sickness, middle ear pain, allergic reactions, angina, myocardial infarction, transient ischaemic attacks, stroke, asthma, diabetic emergencies, trauma, seizures and panic attacks. Cardiovascular events account for the majority of the medical diversions of flights.2, 3, 4

Am I protected legally if I provide medical assistance during a flight?

By Dr Colleen Lau Travel Medicine Alliance Australia & Dr Sara Bird Manager, Medico-legal and Advisory Services, MDA National Insuran

Read Our Member Responses

1  Cocks R, Liew M. Commercial aviation in-flight emergencies and the physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia 2007;19:1-8.

2 Dowdall N. “Is there a doctor on the aircraft?” Top 10 in-flight medical emergencies. BMJ 2000;321(7272):1336-7.

3 Baltsezak S. Clinic in the air? A retrospective study of medical emergency calls from a major international airline. J Travel Med 2008;15(6):391-4.

4 Sand M, Bechara FG, Sand D, Mann B. Surgical and medical emergencies on board European aircraft: a retrospective study of 10189 cases. Crit Care 2009;13(1):R3.

Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Practice Manager Or Owner, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery


My Career Journey with Dr Nick Coatsworth

Dr Nick Coatsworth is an expert in health policy, public administration and a practising infectious diseases physician. He held a national role in the Australian response to COVID-19 as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Australia, becoming one of the most recognised medical spokespeople during the pandemic. Nick engaged the Australian community through a variety of media platforms most notably as the spearhead of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Dr Micheal Gannon, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, sits down with Dr Nick Coatsworth to discuss Nick's medical career journey, and what insights and advice he has for junior doctors. MDA National would like to acknowledge the contributions of MDA National staff, Members, friends and colleagues in the production of the podcast and note that this work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under applicable copyright law, you may not reproduce the content of this podcast without the permission of MDA National. This podcast contains generic information only, is intended to stimulate thought and discussion, and doesn’t account for requirements of any particular individual. The content may contain opinions which are not necessarily those of MDA National. We recommend that you always contact your indemnity provider when you require specific advice in relation to your insurance policy or medico-legal matters. MDA National Members need to contact us for specific medico-legal advice on freecall 1800 011 255 or email We may also refer you to other professional services.


09 Jun 2022

Career complications and contending with uncertainty

Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.


10 Aug 2020