Should the Doc Be Paid for Inflight Treatments?

Yusof Sulaiman writes on ETN news about a dispute over a bill. An Australian doctor who “rendered services” to three passengers while on a Malaysian Airlines flight has sparked a debate whether doctors should charge while on a flight should their services be needed. The doctor had sent a bill to the Malaysian flag carrier, according to published reports.

“I left my young family to attend to three sick passengers,” said Dr. Matilda Metledge, who was on a flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur. Acknowledging her help to fellow passengers, the carrier compensated her with a “token” of toiletries and pajamas after helping two elderly passengers and another passenger who was causing a disturbance.
The carrier had turned down her request for an upgrade.

Wading into the debate, Professor John Gullotta, chairman of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) public health committee, said: “Doctors whose travels are ruined by fellow passengers should be compensated. I myself had three recent flights ruined because I had to treat passengers. The airlines are taking doctors for granted.”

AMA has suggested that doctors who declare themselves available on call during a flight be given an upgrade or be paid for their time while on call. “By offering an incentive upfront everyone else can relax.”

“It is a bit unfair to expect doctors trying to get away on holiday to be always available and render assistance,” added Professor Gullotta. “Obviously we have to do that as part of our Hippocratic Oath and sense of well-being, but the airlines have to take a bit more responsibility.”

Lorraine Long, from the Medical Error Action Group, disagreeing with the view, said treating sick people is a doctor’s professional obligation, not for reward. “Shouldn’t a ‘thank you’ be sufficient?” she asked. An airline industry observer shares another view. “The doctor’s obligation is to the passenger, not to the airline. If there is any bill to be paid, it should be paid by the patient, just like going to the clinic back on the ground.”