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A 97-year-old woman fell on board the cruise ship the Celebrity Silhouette and suffered a head injury which necessitated emergency medical care and treatment. A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and determined the woman required immediate medical attention. Accordingly, an 87-foot Coast Guard patrol boat, named the Sailfish, which has its homeport at Sandy Hook, N.J., was summoned and transferred the injured passenger to shore, where she was then transported by ambulance to a New York hospital.

The passenger cruise ship is owned by Celebrity Cruises. It is 1,033-feet long, and has a capacity to carry 2,886 passengers and 1,500 crewmembers.

The details of the reason for the fall were not available at this time.

The communication with the Coast Guard flight surgeon, who determined that the passenger needed emergency medical attention, shows that the medical staff on passenger cruise ships should consult with shoreside medical experts whenever there is a potential emergency situation. Although the cruise line disclaims any liability for any negligence on the part of the medical staff of the cruise ship, there is an obligation on the part of the medical staff to recognize a true emergency situation and take advantage of the shoreside services which will assist in making sure that a passenger receives appropriate medical care and treatment. Often times, the medical staff fails to make contact with the shoreside experts and therefore an injured passenger does not receive appropriate medical care and treatment. This can be a basis for liability on the part of the cruise ship company if they do not have the medical staff appropriately trained on the procedures for dealing with emergency situations.

The modern day mega cruise ships typically carry more than one doctor on board the ship, and the cruise ship companies are representing that they are following guidelines established by the Emergency Room Physicians Association. However, the ability for a cruise ship company to deal with true medical emergencies has been brought into question many times. It is critical that the cruise ship company be equipped for medical emergencies, and the medical staff trained on how to handle such. While the vessel is at sea, a passenger often times suffers an accident that requires emergency medical attention. Strokes on board a cruise ship are not uncommon. The medical staff must recognize a true emergency, and when to contact the shoreside medical experts. Most cruise ship companies have a shoreside medical department which is available for consultation. The United States Coast Guard, and other companies offer medical guidance to shipboard medical staff to help reach an appropriate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This would include a decision whether a passenger should be evacuated from the ship instead of waiting until the vessel arrives in port.

Our Miami based maritime and admiralty law firm has handled many cases involving situations where the shipboard medical staff has failed to appropriately diagnosis and treat an emergency medical condition, including a failure to promptly evacuate a passenger who needed emergency specialized medical care and treatment.

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