This month, a Delta Air Lines Inc. passenger passed out before takeoff at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. The person was treated by none other than U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who was traveling from Florida to Mississippi for a discussion on the opioid epidemic. The plane was still on the tarmac, and Adams helped evaluate the traveler, who ended up going to the hospital.

Medical emergencies on planes set in motion a chain reaction. Elise May, the manager of inflight safety and regulatory compliance for Southwest Airlines Co., said flight attendants first protect themselves. Then they page for a medical professional on board. Southwest’s flight attendants are trained in basic care, and are equipped with iPads that have manuals and headsets to contact ground-based consultants.

The decision on whether to divert is ultimately made by the pilot and dispatcher, but it is “dependent a lot on our medical consultant and what they feel is the danger of the situation,” May said. “There’s all sorts of things to take into consideration.”

Doctors are protected by a federal law that protects air carriers and individuals from liability while providing assistance in the air. But the Hippocratic oath remains their lodestar.

“Ethically, I feel like there is this responsibility for me to intervene,” said Meera Shah, a New York doctor who helped revive a woman passed out on a plane this year. “What if I wasn’t there? I always think about that.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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