On Monday, The Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship called for help around 11 a.m. in regards to a 67-year old passenger onboard the ship who was suffering from a stroke. At the time of the call, the cruise ship was about 414 miles from Cape Cod. The passenger was retrieved by a Coast Guard helicopter and then taken to a hospital in Boston. Coast Guard Lieutenant Garin Kirkpatrick stated that “given the poor weather and the distance from shore, we had to meticulously plan the flight in order to conduct the medevac.”
An evacuation from a cruise ship can be a very dangerous procedure, and one not often undertaken unless close to a life and death situation, of an extremely serious accident requiring specialized treatment. Cruise ships are generally not equipped for many emergencies although they state they comply with standards of the emergency physicians association, and hire doctors who have training in emergency medicine.
Our firm handles many cases where passengers and crewmembers have not received appropriate emergency medical treatment, some of which have resulted in death.
During any medical emergency, the cruise ship staff must decide if an evacuation if necessary. Under the maritime law, a ship owner must take steps to get their passenger or crewmember to a shore side facility if necessary. This may include a duty to turn the ship around, or head directly to the closest port, as well as a duty to order an evacuation by boat or helicopter.
The emergency faced by a stroke victim is not uncommon onboard a cruise ship. In this case evacuation was ordered and carried out successfully although it was a very complicated and delicate process.
One who travels on a cruise ship should investigate what medical care and facilities are available onboard the cruise ship, especially if one has a medical condition that could require emergency treatment, or if you are travelling with young children. Also, keep in mind the cruise ship companies will disclaim liability for any negligence of their medical staff, claiming the medical staff are independent contractors, not employees of the cruise ship company.
If you are a victim of medical negligence on a cruise ship, including a claim for failure to timely evacuate or get someone to a medical facility on land, you should consult an experienced maritime attorney who knows about the common defenses raised by the cruise ship company. One of the defenses may be the very short one year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit that passengers face.
Our firm continues to be safety advocates for those harmed at sea.