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A Call for Defibrillators on Commercial Flights

When flying abroad for our holidays, we hold airline providers responsible for our wellbeing during a flight. If during the flight we were to suffer a personal injury or illness, we would hope that a certain level of medical care equipment was available.

Press coverage of the case of the woman who was travelling on her holiday, and died of an undiagnosed heart condition on board a Ryanair flight, has raised questions of why a defibrillator was not available in the event of such emergencies.

47-year-old mum of two and frequent traveller, Davina Tavener, was unwell on a flight to Lanzarote where she was headed on holiday with her husband. She suffered heart problems and, when she had not returned from the toilet for some time, she was found unconscious. When attempts were made to revive her, it was revealed that there wasn’t a defibrillator on board. Consultant surgeon, Clare Garnsey, was on board the flight and reportedly was unable to find a pulse, informing the court at inquest, “I did ask for a defibrillator, because if it’s a cardiac issue that’s the best chance of survival, and it was quite a surprise this wasn’t there.”

A defibrillator is a piece of medical equipment that is used to shock the heart into action when it has fallen into arrest. Airlines are not legally required to carry defibrillators but, as coroner, Alan Walsh, said during the inquest, “If you are trapped in an aircraft without access to any other facilities that authority needs to consider the equipment to be carried on these aircraft whether short haul or long haul.

It is, however, the responsibility of airlines and their management to ensure the safety of their customers. In the event you were injured on board a flight through no fault of your own, a specialist travel litigation lawyer would be able to assist you pursuing a compensation claim. This is because the airline and their staff have a duty to ensure your safety. One would expect this duty to extend to medical care on board a flight, or on board a ferry for that matter. Especially on a long commercial flight, passengers have limited options when it comes to first aid, should it be required. On longer flights passengers may have to wait a damaging amount of time before the plane lands for medical attention, and so the case of Mrs Tavener suggests commercial airlines should give due consideration to such an occurrence.

For more information on passenger peace of mind on flights, see our previous blog here.

At Slater and Gordon Lawyers, we have Personal Injury Solicitors who specialise in Travel Law Claims across the UK. If you or a member of your family were injured in an accident whilst travelling on commercial or public transport call us for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or from abroad on +44 20 7657 155 or contact us online and we will call you.

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