We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.

If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume you’re happy to receive all cookies from the BMA website. Find out more about cookies

Your Privacy

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.

Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies


These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms.

You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.


These cookies are required

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information we collect is anonymous unless you actively provide personal information to us.

If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

Preferences Cookies

These cookies allow a website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you're in) and tailor the website to provide enhanced features and content for you.

For example, they can be used to remember certain log-in details, changes you've made to text size, font and other parts of pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you've asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. These cookies may be used to ensure that all our services and communications are relevant to you. The information these cookies collect cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.

Without these cookies, a website cannot remember choices you've previously made or personalise your browsing experience meaning you would have to reset these for every visit. In addition, some functionality may not be available if this category is switched off.

3rd Party Cookies

Our websites sometimes integrate with other companies’ sites. For example, we integrate with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, to make it easier for you to share what you have read. These sites place their own cookies on your browser as a result of us including their icons and ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons on our sites.

Apply & close

'Is there a doctor on board?'

This week, Dundee fourth year medical student Craig MacLean made national news by saving the life of a cardiac arrest patient aboard his flight to Dubai.

In the absence of any doctors on board, Craig kept calm and carried out emergency treatment on the man, until the plane could land. Airplane

He said: ‘[The patient] was a big guy. He was not breathing and had no pulse. I thought “this is a cardiac arrest” and after that I went into automatic — everything external just disappeared.’ Read more here.

Back in 2010, BMA News reported on doctors travelling by public transport, who’ve responded to the dreaded tannoy request: ‘Is there a doctor on board?’

At the time, County Down consultant in anaesthesia and pain management Peter Maguire said:

‘The most embarrassing experience was when I was on a European flight with more than 60 anaesthetists on board.

A call went out for a doctor - I was a SpR and all the consultants put their newspapers up in front of their faces.’

Dr Maguire said he was keen to embarrass the consultants by tending to the patient.

‘It was a diabetic emergency – they are quite common and really easy to deal with.’

London consultant in obs and gynae Shree Datta was on a Eurostar train travelling between Paris and the UK when passengers were trapped for 17 hours in December 2009.

She explained that some passengers and staff had to be treated for panic attacks, a common condition for ‘Good Samaritan’ acts.

Finally, an hour after take-off on a flight from Nigeria to the UK, Bristol consultant in perioperative medicine Stephen Mather responded to a call to help a patient with a leg injury.

‘She had all the symptoms and signs of acute septicaemia and was becoming rapidly unconscious,’ Dr Mather said.

Fortunately, there was a drip on the flight and Dr Mather had some oral antibiotics in his bag.

‘I made her drink three or four times the oral dose, so we managed to maintain her on the edge of consciousness for the remaining seven or eight hours of the flight.

‘It took me about two hours to stabilise her and we moved her through to the business class area and laid her flat on a seat.’

GMC guidance Good Medical Practice (2013) says: ‘You must offer help if emergencies arise in clinical settings or in the community, taking account of your own safety, your competence and the availability of other options for care.’

We want to hear about the times YOU'VE helped out in emergency situations. Have you ever had to treat a member of the public when you were off-duty? Leave your stories below....

1 reply

  • This afternoon, I spoke to Dr Maguire who said dealing with public emergency situations is still something he deals with regularly and most commonly aboard planes (he's a frequent flyer) and at airports. In fact, he estimates he gets called on every two to three weeks.... So far, he's dealt with one death on a plane, cardiac arrests, asthma attacks, burns, middle ear problems related to cabin pressure and recently, a miscarriage among other things. As an anaesthetist, Dr Maguire is an expert in resuscitation, but recognises other doctors may not be so comfortable in this role.