Is There A Doctor On Board?

November 30, 2007

in Illness/Medical Stories

My husband and I were traveling with our two children (aged two and five.) The flight was uneventful but then we were delayed after landing as we waited for an open gate. After sitting with no air flow for half an hour the plane became quite hot and stuffy and apparently a pregnant women on board began having some complications. The flight attendants explained that there was a pregnant lady having problems and called for a doctor on board. I attempted to hide behind the children’s books that I was reading as I scanned the flight for some other doc to answer the call. I am a pathologist and although I am a doctor, my patients are typically already dead. Given that I hadn’t delivered a baby in years, I glared at my husband, a dermatologist, seated two rows behind me who was hiding behind his magazine and probably thinking about the many years since the last time he delivered a baby. Fortunately after what felt like eternity, a woman seated a few rows away finally jumped up an announced that she was an OB nurse – the perfect person to take this call.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

JT May 21, 2008 at 7:31 am

WOW way to be helpful, I wouldn't have posted this about myself. If anything you should be ashamed for not being a nice person and helping a PREGNANT WOMAN IN NEED!!


PS July 15, 2008 at 8:50 am

How incredibly selfish of both you and your husband. So much for the Hypocratic Oath… I am shocked at how satisfied you seem to be that you weaseled out of having to help.


Melanie July 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

Maybe it is best that you work only on dead patients. You have no empathy for the living.


Scott July 15, 2008 at 9:49 am

I agree with all the above comments.

Reading your post, I hope you were ranting against yourself.


GenXer July 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Lame… you two were meant for each other.


Jennifer July 18, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I don't really understand how this was the flight from hell for the poster or her husband. Sounds like a flight from hell for the poor pregnant lady. Thankfully, someone stepped up. The poster and her husband should be ashamed.


Matt November 3, 2008 at 8:45 am

I was going to leave a comment to berate the poster but I have been beaten to the punch. Shame on you and your husband.


mike rosen December 14, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I happen to be a pathologist myself. Have stepped up to render assistance despite my lack of clinical experience. Other folks have said it all, but you and your hubby are indeed a pair of Weasels. I don't know what the hell you were thinking in deciding to post this story. You can now add stupid along with selfish to your resume. Why not mail your story to the editor of CAP TODAY?!

Mike R.


Adam January 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I'm a psychiatrist, and although I helped deliver 2 children while an intern, I have solely delivered 2 others outside hospitals in this very circumstance. In my experience, you don't need to be an OBGYN to help 95% of childbirths.

Hippocratic oath, BTW for others is not a legally binding contract, only an optional formality these days.

P.S. I'd let a dermatologist deliver my child any day before a pathologist……. Maybe you were right to look at your partner!


Jennifer - Boston April 2, 2009 at 9:11 am

Once again, the selfish doctors who would kill each other to get into a patients room when they were in medial school, now leave it all up to the nurses.

You two should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.


S. Miller April 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

Wow, now I know why I hate doctors so much. "Hiding behind the children's books I was reading", that's just what I expect from the medical community. Just curious, how did you so-called doctors figure out the pregnant lady didn't have insurance? You epitomize what's wrong with medicine today. Lack of compassion for the whole reason you even exist. Sad.


Anna Marie April 2, 2009 at 9:37 am

What sad excuses for human beings. I can only think, in horror, of what sort of values you are instilling in your children.


Jeremy April 2, 2009 at 9:45 am

I'm no doctor, so I don't know if this is an issue – but the original poster said that the lady was having "complications" – not simply delivering. Certainly, this could easily have qualified for that 5% that Adam (the Psychiatrist) mentioned. In that case, I don't know whether a pathologist or dermatologist would be any better than a well-trained layperson.

Just an observation…


Belleweather April 2, 2009 at 10:38 am

Instead of hiding like skunks, why couldn't you be grownup human beings, identify yourselves and be frank about your lack of preparedness but willingness to help should no one else step up? No matter how long ago, you and Weasel Hubby DID go through medical training that we can assume the other passengers didn't.

I think of this poor woman, lying there afraid she might lose her baby, and I want to beat the living shit out of you both. Then call for a doctor and hope someone besides heartless cowards hears YOU.


Magyc April 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

I see a lot of criticism but who would know better if they were in a position to help other than the person themselves? I would be hoping for someone more qualified to volunteer as well.


Holy God April 2, 2009 at 11:36 am

I don't see how anyone can defend these sorry specimens. 'Oh dear, it's been years since I delivered a baby!' Lessee, how many other passengers do you think have delivered babies?????????? Are you retarded AND heartless?

Someone was suffering and afraid. How hard would it have been to offer your help? Even if she was just panicking, think of the difference it would have made to her.

Talk about some karma that you hope comes around . . .


Genejock April 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

As a fellow pathologist, I share your fear! I am research pathologist and the only clinical practice I do is autopsy. It has been 15 years since I actually treated a patient.

Flying to a meeting in France as a path resident, the FA had more faith in me that one of my attendings. That case was easy – a Viagra headache at 30,000 ft.

The worst I had was watching a man fumble his nitroglycerin on a flight and thinking I am going to be jumping on his chest to perform CPR because he is so big. I am not sure who was more relieved when his angina resolved!


Nita April 2, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Lady, you and your husband should be so ashamed of yourselves. Obviously you are both so self-absorbed that you think YOU were abused by this situation. Would you have felt anything, I wonder, if your little self-love trip had resulted in this woman or her child truly becoming one of your "customers"?


Derek April 2, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Maybe this one's a joke? Obviously not done very well? I just can't believe (A) any doctor would do this (B) any human being would do this (C) they'd be dumb enough to post it.


Derek April 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

. . . and BTW — watching the other MDs defend these creeps, now I know how so many get away with malpractice!! Do you check your conscience and guts at the door to med school, folks?


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm

uh, Derek, there aren't exactly "other MDs" defending this lady. There was one pathologist that wrote about their experiences. However, I do agree with you. This woman is a creep and should have her liscence taken.


LARRY April 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Most doctors make me sick!! This is just another example of why.


fflyer April 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm

i agree that there is no better person than the OP to know what their skills and capabilities would be. sounds like the best person for the situation did get up to help – an OB nurse.

in this lawsuit-happy nation i would think twice before helping someone in a medical crisis that wasn't a specialty of mine – especially if something happens to the baby.

soon we won't have enough doctors in this nation to treat all the patients and it's because everyone is ungrateful and self-entitled. doctors give up years of their life to learn what they know – most of the time just to be treated like crap by patients who think they know better. we'll all going to hell in a handbasket.


Jeanette April 2, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Wow. Taking the heat for this one, right?

When you and your husband are in need of immediate help some day — I hope that person will be hiding behind their newspaper.

Good luck to you.


Mimi April 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

What's the matter, was there no way for you to bill the poor pregnant lady? You are what I scrape off my shoe. I hope you post again one day when one of your children is grown and in the same position as that woman – and no one steps up to help. Let's listen to your outrage then, scum.


frj April 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Way to conveniantly forget the Heppocratic oath.


Jonathan April 2, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Most commenters seem to have misunderstand the entire point of the story here. The poster's anxiety comes from the fact that she intended to step forward if nobody else did, but was not confident in her ability to handle the situation, and thus was desperately hoping someone better suited would emerge.


robby April 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I think fflyer and Jonathan got it right — and we also don't get sense of timing. I could have taken less than a minute for all of this to occur. Any doctor needs to know his or her capabilities, because of exactly what all of these mad commenters are talking about– the Hippocratic Oath says "First do no harm."

I can only imagine what the comments would be like if the OB nurse had gone into hiding and the pathologist and the dermatologist were left to fend for themselves and ended up hurting mother and child.


J April 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

You and your husband are pathetic losers. Especially since you have two children yourselves. That if that had been you, pregnant and in need of help, and two doctrs were sitting there doing nothing??!!!!


ajmd April 2, 2009 at 9:19 pm

while I agree that it would be ideal to have had someone with a medical background volunteer to help, I understand the anxiety that the poster felt as her field of expertise limits her knowledge base in a specific area.

I agree with robby re: "first do no harm." you posters bashing on the poor pathologist and mentioning the Hippocratic Oath should at least look it up and understand it in detail before you start throwing the term around. The principle of non-maleficence is just as important as beneficence when it comes to medical practice.

Doctors are human beings and thus are not perfect and also are prone to insecurities; this is why it is even more so important to know your limits of practice. The posted comments reflect why as a young physician I am already bitter for having sacrificed my youth and my heath to pursue a mission to serve people only to find out that many people that I serve are obstinate, self-righteous, ungrateful, and callous.

I do not understand where this hatred towards physicians comes from but it certainly does make it more and more difficult to feel committed to the field. cheers, -aj


Jojo April 3, 2009 at 2:19 am

To those defending these two, take a look at the story a few down, "DJ turns MD". The guy stepped up and performed CPR on a woman. Guess the docs would think he was "the perfect person to take this call."

What they did was horrid of them. If the woman had died, I wonder if their consciences would have bothered them – probably not.

In this case, the nurse showed more compassion and humanity than these two did.


Debi April 3, 2009 at 2:19 am

Well, in defense of the op I must say I would rather have a nurse vs a dead tissue or skin doc come at me if I was pregnant. I would also point out that there must be some concern with getting sued from the prego in case she has complications say months down the road even. I am sure if it was a true emergency (no note of ambulance being called to gate etc.) they would have stepped up but again do you want dr dead tissue anywhere near your pregnant bits?


Collin April 3, 2009 at 4:20 am

You need to be shot and quartered. Please, don't have children.


Kay April 3, 2009 at 6:17 am

I'd like to know what these two charming doctors would have done had there NOT been an OB nurse on board? (Or if it had been a nurse who worked for a dermatologist )

Would they have continued to hide? Sadly the pathologist who wrote didn't mention that important tidbit.

At least the doctor who originally wrote wasn't unpleasant, unlike ajmd, who probably needs to consider that the reason people are "obstinate, self-righteous, ungrateful, and callous" toward him is because, if his note is any indication, he has the 'bedside manner' of a poisonous toad. (Perhaps *he* should become a pathologist himself???)

As someone previously said, this wasn't a trip from hell for the woman who wrote and her husband…it was the trip from hell for the pregnant woman, so why on earth did this pathologist write? Surely she didn't think she'd get any sympathy. Then again, since all her patients are dead, maybe she's just not used to getting feedback )


Uncompassionate assh April 3, 2009 at 9:04 am

Like many people that work in America. I would not step up to do my job for fun after my ass is off the clock. Especially if I don't know you. Theres more teen pregnancies and people without health insurance that make it hard on the rest of us honest tax payers. If your ass is retarded enough to get on a plane when your that far in your pregnancy then please DIE and stop spreading your genes. Tired of people looking for hand outs everywhere. THis shit is business not yunicef. Besides i'd rather have a specialty nurse over an unspecialized doctor anyday. Thats like asking the dude at jiffy lube to rebuild your motor. Its not his department and hed prolly fuk it up. THen you'de expect him to be responsible. I'd tell you to fuck off to begin with and save my self the trouble.


llp April 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

I am a psychiatrist married to a radiologist. We have been on numerous flights where someone has called for a doctor. As he is the more clinically connected of the two of us, he has volunteered repeatedly. My experience is that usually more than one physician steps up to help. Then they compare specialties and defer to the one who is most qualified. When he is alone, I often accompany him to offer a second opinion. Together we do our best. We have never had to divert a flight or had someone die on us. Thank goodness! However, my husband has spent several flights sitting beside the ill person and/or repeatedly going back to check on them. Once the stewardess offered him the airline's thanks with a free cocktail. He declined and then turned to me and said, "Can you believe that? An intoxicated physician trying to help a medically compromised patient?" We both had water and diet coke for the rest of the flight.

Despite flying with two small children on many of these flights, we never considered ourselves inconvenienced or resented being asked to help. We we've been fortunate enough to become doctors, and despite our lack of recent clinical work, we do know much more than any lay person.

However, I do sympathize with the horrible anxiety that this dermatologist experienced. As physicians, it is important for us to know our limitations. There's a real terror associated with being in over your head and not knowing what to do and having someone die as a result of that. This is something every physician wrestles with. I remember the panic that set in when we sat on our first flight where they asked for a doctor on board. We both looked at each other and then looked around to see if any "real" doctors were around. It took a moment or two to realize that we were the "real" doctors.


Just Me April 4, 2009 at 5:39 am

llp: the voice of reason. Thanks.

ajmd: get out of medical practice now. You never should have gone into it. I suggest corporate law. Sounds like a perfect fit.

Original poster: you got your butt kicked here good, and maybe you deserved it — if for nothing else, for submitting this story. The way you tell it shows at the least, a distinct inability to empathize, or to understand what really constitutes a bad situation for yourself or someone else; at the worst, a monumental self-absorption and lack of compassion.

It is interesting to see how many people still expect those in the health professions to be mature, caring, and sympathetic — and possessed of a more-than-average degree of selflessness. And why not? We put our lives and the lives of our loved ones literally into their hands.


mj April 5, 2009 at 3:30 am

so much for your oath scumbags


Chanty April 5, 2009 at 4:21 am

Selfish putz – too bad they didn't give birth and let you secure it – you are a pathologist eh? What a fabulous example to your young children – I hope they hear about this and take you to task – egads!


Agreed April 5, 2009 at 4:52 am

This is getting a bit one sided. I would actually defend your keeping your head down. I'm guessing most of these other posters haven't had to fly with two young children of their own. It's a royal pain. Who was going to look after her kids while she helped the pregnant woman. Also, what was this pregnant doing on a plane if she was so close to delivery. Most OB/GYNs prefer their patients NOT to fly two months from delivery.


David Beecher April 6, 2009 at 9:54 am

Selfish Putz of the year award!!

I've traveled with 2 young children (though many years ago), my wife or myself could easily look after two young children, while the other attended to something else..


DLM April 6, 2009 at 10:16 am

You both should be ashamed of yourselves. My husband and I travel with small children all the time. My husband is an Orthopedic Surgeon and hasn't delivered a baby in years as well, but he would never hide behind a children's book if needed. You're both a disgrace to the medical field. Thank you OB nurse for stepping up to the plate while others cower behind books.


Deelee April 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

Uncompassionate asshole,

It's UNICEF and "probably" you freaking moron! With an attitude like yours, you are "probably" hated by everyone who knows you. What a dick.


Jill April 6, 2009 at 7:44 pm

On one hand, there is the liability/potential lawsuit issue. And, there is the issue of morality and a pregnant woman in need. Never mind how she got in that situation, ie pregnant and on a plane, because it's too late at that point.

Are there any legal people out there who can enlighten us about this kind of scenario? Is the physician/nurse/etc free from blame if something goes wrong?

On a side note, Dr. Pathologist, you should have been the California Octomom's fertility expert. That is one case where medical help (for giving 14 kids to a single mom) should have been refused!!!!!


Jill April 6, 2009 at 7:52 pm

You can tell from this situation, nurses are the backbone of hospitals. The hospital can function very well with out doctors for some time, but it would fall apart with out the nurses (and maybe the ER doctors.) Why don't nurses get a doctor's salary when they have more responsibility. Just a side question.


Anonymous April 10, 2009 at 11:10 am

I hope you read these comments, think about what a selfish person you are an home lame your actions were, and change. but you won't.


devon April 11, 2009 at 10:28 am

Hello people-why hasn't anyone complained about the airline keeping a pregnant lady on a hot airplane for so long???

She was their responsibility, not the other passengers. It doesn't say how pregnant she was, so you can't blame her for flying pregnant. As for the OB nurse, the post says after what seemed like an eternity she announced herself, so it sounds like she was hoping the same thing.

Give the lady a break. I’m pretty sure every single one of you have walked by a person in need and hoped someone else would step in, mmmmm ??


Liz April 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I am a physician who has been called upon to help someone on a plane before and have done so, however I experience at least a small amount of anxiety before any flight in case a scenario like this were to happen. In many states, such as mine, (and who knows what the laws were in this particular scenario) as a physician if you act a good samaritan you are held to the standard of a physician in that field–meaning they can sue you for any problem up to 18 years after the kid is born. It is not a payment issue, but a liability issue. People get sued for performing free care in an effort to help others which is crazy and wrong. In my state, to volunteer in a free (to the patient) clinic, I have to pay extra malpractice (outside of what I normally pay, and we're talking thousands) to safely volunteer. It is easy to judge others, but remember that being nice in some situations may cost one dearly. Imagine losing your house or car because you tried to help someone and maybe you can understand their hesitation. That being said, again, I have helped those in need on a plane and just hoped for the best.


Festerdun April 20, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Way to be a good member of society and jump in there to help, hon! Glad to see people are still willing to help out others in this day and age.


Anonymous April 21, 2009 at 11:16 am

you're an ass and so is your husband


Rob April 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Cool, so that means that despite the effort at good will, doctors don't really give a rats ass about anyone else.

Remember that the next time your little barbarians are more than 10 feet from you and need help, and NOBODY HELPS.

You have the smarts to be a doctor, but you are still not a human being.

Get off my planet. And stop breeding.

We have enough upper-middle class self-important idiots like you already.

But thanks for your honesty. It's criminal you don't even see what kind of person you really are.


Jill May 22, 2009 at 6:36 am

Thank Goodness a highly trained nurse was on board, seeing as there were no doctors to help.


MW July 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Dumb c***. God forbid you help someone else out. No wonder everyone hates Americans.


MW is dumb July 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

MW how do you know they were Americans? I find it completely obnoxious when people say they hate Americans. The reason is usually because they think Americans are ignorant and stupid. Isn't it ignorant and stupid to generalize an entire country based on a few? Should I just go ahead and generalize entire populations based on one jackass? If so MW, where are you from? I'll just go ahead and assume your entire country is full of ignorant assholes such as yourself. Unless you are an American in which case, stop perpetuating stereotypes idiot.


College Kid November 4, 2010 at 5:57 am

You people are jerks, GJ on not trying to be the hero and letting the better woman for the job take it. Asking a dermatologist or pathologist to deliver a baby is like asking a policeman to rescue a drowning swimmer.


Atarii October 27, 2013 at 2:50 am

Uh, bad analogy, but I agree with your sentiments: Am I OBLIGATED among everyone else around to do something I do not want to do?
Every time I want to have a flight, I have to be mentally prepared to tend to other people who I do not know and would never see again?

I understand doing the right thing. I, personally, love to help people, but it was her choice not to be the first to offer help, and it ultimately seemed to be the right decision. (Note that the implication is that she or her husband would have helped provided no one else offered.)

Not only are you people judgmental, holding people to your own personal, arbitrary sense of ethics, but you are incompetent, in that you did not properly comprehend the story before shooting off a lame, blithering insult.


TXanimal October 15, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I don't blame them one bit. With OB-related lawsuits running rampant, I can't fault either of them for not wanting to take the risk.

Blame all the twat-waffles out there suing their OBs because their kids didn't get a perfect score on the SAT.


Guest February 10, 2019 at 2:54 pm

Seriously people need to relax. It don't matter if you are a doctor, if you have no confidence in your skills you shouldn't volunteer to help. This is not their field of expertise and there are huge liability issues when helping and they are going to be held to specialist standards by the law. Putting their career and livelihood at risk for an absolute stranger, screw that. A dermatologist and pathologist stand a huge chance of missing something basic that could put the patient at risk because they are used to (dead people with no patient care) and skin problems (no surgery) respectively. They did the right thing.


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