Lawsuit fears spur airlines into protecting heart-attack victims

AIR travellers with heart problems will get a reassuring boost next year when American Airlines becomes the third airline to carry heart- shocking machines - known as defibrillators - on its longer flights.

The airline is ordering 300 of the portable devices, which will be introduced in March 1997. It is training 2,300 flight attendants to use them.

The American Airlines move comes a month after the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved the use of defibrillators on domestic flights in the US. It is thought that the airline is attempting to head off possible lawsuits by passengers who received inadequate treatment during medical emergencies.

"The safety of passengers is our paramount concern," said Lizann Peppard, a spokesperson for American Airlines. "But if it saves us money by avoiding costly litigation, that's a bonus."

The battery-powered defibrillators sense abnormal heart rhythms and deliver controlled electric shocks to stop the heart so it can restart with a normal rhythm. They are the latest and most sophisticated piece of kit to be included in the in-flight medical kit, which began life as a box containing bandages, smelling salts, iodine, and morphine (to calm hysterical passengers).

Until recently, the kit remained largely unchanged. Then some long-haul airlines introduced drugs to relieve stomach ulcers, asthma attacks and diabetic conditions. The British Airways medical kit now carries 88 items, including powerful prescription drugs that can only be administered by a doctor. United Airlines has a device that communicates a patient's vital signs to doctors on the ground via modem and satellite telephone.

Medical opinion remains divided on how useful defibrillators would be at 35,000 feet. Cor- respondence in the Lancet has indicated that between 500 and 1,000 people die from heart attacks on planes in a given year, but that defibrillators are only useful if the victim can be put into intensive care immediately.

A spokesperson for British Airways said it did not plan to introduce defibrillators, but that "the situation was under review". There were 2,629 medical incidents among the 36 million people who flew on BA last year, of which 61 were heart-related.

Virgin Atlantic claims it was the first airline to introduce defibrillators when it put them on its transatlantic jumbos in 1990. Since then the machines have been used eight times.

Qantas has included defibrillators as part of its standard equipment on long-haul flights for five years, and claims to have saved six lives. In 1994 a Qantas attendant used the machine to resuscitate a woman whose heart had stopped. The incident precipitated calls from the American Heart Association for defibrillators to be included inmedical equipment, and led to the FAA's approval of the devices.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star