People are often left to wonder what would happen if a medical emergency were to happen to them onboard a cruise ship. Last week, a cruise ship passenger on board a Carnival Cruise Lines ship, which is based here in Miami, Florida, unfortunately had to find out. A 66-year-old cruise ship passenger on board the Carnival Horizon reportedly suffered a stroke when the ship was approximately 80 miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey. A daring medical evacuation, or medevac, was carried out by the United States Coast Guard by helicopter.
Even though the cruise ship companies maintain procedures about medical evacuations, more often than not, we hear of different scenarios where the cruise ship company failed to evacuate a passenger or crew member who was suffering a medical emergency in a timely manner, which resulted in serious harm or even death. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Medical evacuations from a cruise ship can be very expensive, and often times present a challenging endeavor getting a passenger or crew member off the cruise ship.
Weather and sea conditions play a critical factor in the ability to evacuate a sick or injured passenger. Sometimes medical evacuation can actually worsen the passenger’s condition. Other times, the passenger or crew member’s condition is such that it would be too risky to attempt an evacuation. Alternative methods can be employed such as increasing the speed of the cruise ship or turning into a closer port to get a sick or injured passenger off the ship sooner. Other situations have involved the onboard medical staff misdiagnosing the passenger or crew member’s injury or not realizing how serious their condition actually was and the necessity of an evacuation. .
Cruise Ship Regulations Regarding Passenger Evacuation
The law does place a duty on the cruise ship to proceed to the closest port in the case of a medical emergency or exercise reasonable care to provide the necessary medical care in the case of a medical emergency. Depending on the circumstances, the cruise ship company can be held liable for failure to coordinate a medevac.
The decision to medically evacuate a passenger or crew member is made in coordination with the ship’s medical doctor and in this case the Miami cruise ship headquarters. The Staff Captain and the Captain on board the ship are involved in the decision-making process. The captain will have input in the decision, but ultimately the Miami headquarters will make the final decision.
Life-Saving Medevac by the United States Coast Guard
We were happy to hear in this case that the right decision was made for a prompt and successful evacuation conducted by the United States Coast Guard. The helicopter evacuated the 66-year-woman and a nurse employed by Carnival at around 1 in the morning. It was reported that the passenger was able to get to a land-based hospital and received the necessary medical care and treatment, thereby saving the passenger’s life. We commend the cruise ship company for the proper & prompt decision to evacuate the passenger for appropriate medical care and attention.
Our cruise ship lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies, P.A., have extensive experience representing clients who have been injured or harmed on cruise ships. Some of these injuries have resulted from medical decisions on board the ship, including decisions regarding medical evacuations. If you or a loved one has been injured while onboard a cruise ship, contact us today for a free consultation.