High and dry: column

What do you do for a living? I confess that, when asked this question, I have lied many times. At parties, at gyms and at dinners, I’ve been reluctant to talk about being a doctor, often for the sake of whoever I’m with, as I invariably start moaning about NHS politics.

The question of whether or not to lie when called to do a professional duty is easier. Of course one should tell the truth. Still, I do know a few doctors who will admit to pausing, or feigning deafness, when medical services are requested over the tannoy at 30,000ft, hoping that someone else will get there first.

What I find astonishing is that so many health professionals seem to be in the air. One study from the Federal Aviation Authority, a US government body, found that in 85 per cent of mid-air medical emergencies there was a doctor, nurse or paramedic willing to assist. But what can the sky-high practitioner actually do? There are varying amounts of varyingly useful medical equipment on board. Some planes carry defibrillators, and several provide links for crew members to telephone medical advice lines.


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