American Airlines Being Sued Over Death Of 25 Year Old During Flight

American Airlines
image: Aero Shots

Two years back, a 25 year-old woman from South Carolina was flying home from Hawaii on American Airlines with her husband Cory.

During the middle of the flight, the woman, Brittany Oswell didn’t feel well and eventually fainted. When she regained consciousness, a doctor onboard spoke with her and thought that she was suffering from a panic attack.

The family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against American Airlines.

Fox News reports that, “According to the lawsuit, a few hours later, as the plane was flying over Albuquerque, N.M., Cory took Oswell to the lavatory, where she collapsed on the floor, vomited and defecated on herself.”

The lawsuit also mentions that Oswell was once again checked by the doctor who told the flight crew to let the pilot know that the plane should be diverted to the closest airport so she could receive medical treatment.

The doctor spoke with the pilot about the situation. However, after consulting with a doctor on the ground, the pilot decided to head to the flight’s final destination, Dallas, TX, which was another hour and a half away.

While trying to help Oswell, the doctor had issues due to medical equipment which wasn’t working on the plane. One blood pressure machine wasn’t working and the other was giving error messages. After Oswell stopped breathing, the doctor tried using the defibrillator but no shock was given. Fox writes that, “Flight crew and the doctor then took turns administering CPR, but Oswell never regained consciousness.”

Once the plane landed, Oswell was brought to Baylor Medical Center. Three days later, she was declared brain dead and taken off life support.

The family is suing American Airlines due to negligence for not diverting the plane.

This is certainly a tragic situation. I do wonder what information determines grounds for a flight to be diverted? Does the pilot go with the word of the doctor onboard or the doctor on the ground who hasn’t seen the patient?

Find out more from Fox News here.

8 thoughts on “American Airlines Being Sued Over Death Of 25 Year Old During Flight

  1. I am an MD (psychiatrist) and assisted with a medical emergency on a Qatar flight. The pilot would only listen to the ground doctor who had no clue how to handle a psychiatric situation. We had 13 hours of sheer hell due to me not being able to perform the medical treatment necessary. But this seems to be the protocol… ground docs trump those of us in the air who have all the information in front of us.

  2. I’ve been reading about this story. The doctor is not being sued. The family seemed to hire a general attorney, who got co-counsel from a personal injury firm in the same metropolitan area (Columbia, SC).

    According to several forums, there’s speculation that birth control pills may be the cause, not DVT from the flight. There’s also mention that the initial symptoms are not like those usually found in a pulmonary embolism. The equipment might have been working because the AED doesn’t shock when pulseless electrical activity is detected, just ventricular fibrillation.

    There is also mention that by the time there was discussion, the 777 was probably over Amarillo which, one person mentioned doesn’t have the specialists to deal with it (and that even ABQ may lack it).

    1. Had a medical emergency a few years back on a finnair flight to Japan, answered the dreaded call is there a doctor on board….in my case it really only was a psychiatric problem…..the pilot actually asked me if he had to divert the plane (somewhere between chinese and north korean airspace)…..I was able to contact a doctor on the ground (in Texas?!) for advice but in the end that was only advice I had the final decision (crew from Finnair was well trained onboard equipment worked)….at landing in Japan the ambulance was waiting everything was just fine…(I guess in the end it is airline policy which doctor they listen to)

  3. Maybe I’m being naive, but if there is a licensed doctor on board the plane who has seen the patient, that doctor’s opinion/suggestion should determine the proper action.

    1. I agree, why the two year wait? Was an autopsy performed? Has the body been cremated? Hope for a money grab? Lots of questions —

  4. Emergency medicine physician here, works at an L1 trauma center. My medical call has been trumped by a ground physician and it only resulted in a divert when the passenger became unresponsive.

    If I were to prescribe medical treatment on the ground to a patient that I hadn’t seen, I could lose my license. I think these ‘ground’ physicians should be held to the same standard. I believe the passenger’s should be able to sue the ground physician for their call (with lack of medical evidence, and obviously a lapse in the standard of care in this situation given the prognosis) and that those physicians licenses should be reviewed. We need to require airlines to hold medical care to the same standards as on the ground, and those ground physicians need to understand that they are liable if they don’t defer to the physician in the air and something bad happens — would keep them on the edge.

  5. Charles- Something sounds wrong with this…

    Derek- Thanks for sharing those additional bits of info!

    Franz- Interesting.

    Garrett- I agree.

    ConcernedFlyer- I wondered the same thing!

    John J- Interesting theories, who knows for sure but the family.

    Michael- It is odd that a physician who hasn’t seen the person is making decisions regarding their health and safety.

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