This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Quora.com is a question-and-answer site where content is written and edited by its community of users. Occasionally we syndicate content from the site if we think it will interest TPG readers. This article originally appeared on Quora.com in response to the question, Do Airlines Compensate Doctors for Assisting During an Emergency? and was written by Liang-Hai Sie, a retired general internist and former intensive care physician.


One doesn’t get paid working as a “Good Samaritan” — under international law, operating under such circumstances is also exempt from any medical indemnity or claims of practicing medicine without being licensed for that particular jurisdiction — which would it fall under: that of the carrier, the country over which the flight is at that moment, the port of departure or the port of arrival?

Afterward, one is asked to write a report, usually a big thank you accompanied by a small present (a bottle of wine, a voucher for the on-board tax free shop) often are sent later on to one’s home address.

A few years back, when I was still practicing as a general internist (not on the ICU anymore) on a KLM-Air France flight from Hangzhou back to Amsterdam, the purser called for a doctor during the night. Since I seemed to be the only one on board who responded, I looked at the man in question, who was Belgian, so our conversation quickly turned from English to Dutch/Flemish. He was clammy, giddy, a bit nauseated, had no chest pain and had had some diarrhea before boarding, so I diagnosed him as having viral gastroenteritis, asked him to regularly drink some fluids and went back to sleep.

After a few hours, a Chinese flight attendant (since I still speak a smattering of Chinese) came to my seat (by then, they knew where I was seated) to softly wake me up and ask me to see another man, a middle-aged Italian who didn’t speak any other language and wanted nothing to do with any doctor. He was traveling in a group and was very much afraid of any medical meddling that would cause us to make him miss his group’s connection back to Italy to be seen after landing in Amsterdam (AMS).

Examining a patient on a noisy jet is next to impossible. The man — through another member of the group who spoke a few words of English — vehemently denied having any chest pain, had a good pulse, was feeling a bit faint and was a bit clammy, so finding nothing else, there was nothing I could do. Landing in Afghanistan or the former USSR Asian countries wasn’t an option and he remained stable, so I advised the crew to keep an eye on him, call me again if needed and continue our flight to Amsterdam.

A doctor
A doctor’s work is never done. Image courtesy of id-work via Getty Images.

The Purser asked me to fill out a report, including my name and other particulars, but not my licensing number.  When we disembarked at Amsterdam Airport, the Belgian patient waved goodbye to me while he was being driven on an electric vehicle to his connecting flight. As for the the Italian man, I didn’t see him again and for all I knew, he had had a heart attack, but in 1976 (before clot busting and other emergency percutaneous coronary interventions) there was a paper published in the British Medical Journal that recommended uncomplicated heart attack patients to be cared for at home since they tended to do better than those admitted, so doing nothing — since he adamantly refused any medical involvement — was an option, too.

Afterward, the purser thanked me with a bottle of wine, which I gracefully accepted. After a few weeks, I received a thank you note from KLM external communications, a few nice models of the typical 17th century canal houses Amsterdam is famous for, quite popular among tourists and Dutch alike, and a voucher for 50 euros (~$53) to be spent on a future flight’s on-board tax free shop, which I used 18 months later.

I’m not sure under which jurisdiction I was, probably Dutch (since KLM is a Royal Dutch Airline flight), so was fully licensed, but since doctors under such circumstances are exempt from such “details,” it didn’t matter.

Personally, I think all doctors and allied health personnel, even those who are retired, should respond to such on-board calls for medical help, since we, however one sees it, are better equipped to deal with and evaluate sick people than the cabin crew, who have had some basic training but not much else.

Featured image courtesy of Brian A. Jackson via Getty Images.

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.