Bad Medical Care, Lack of Accountability, Plague Cruise Industry

One of the dangers which cruise passengers face is incompetent medical care provided by non-U.S. doctors and nurses. And when these go wrong in the high seas, most cruise passengers don't realize that the cruise lines are not legally responsible for the malpractice of the cruise ship medical team. 

One of our ten most outrageous cruise stories last year focused on the extraordinary steps the cruise lines take to avoid responsibility when cruise ship doctors maim or kill cruise passengers. I also suggest reading: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad.

Tomorrow at the Senate hearing on cruise safety there will testimony that it took 15 minutes before cruise ship medical employees arrived after Armada Butler's 51 year old mother collapsed during a Carnival Conquestcruise aboard the Carnival Conquest. In a NBC Channel 6 interview, Amanda said it took even longer to get inside the closed medical facility on the ship where the defibrillator was located.

The family flew Ms. Butler from the Cayman Islands (where she was medically disembarked) to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami via private jet, but she died two weeks later

Local cruise celebrity Stewart Chiron defended the industry, telling NBC 6 "It looks like in some cases, persons are upset about certain responses . . . but you see the same types in complaints on shore."

But unlike shore-side cases where doctors commit malpractice, the cruise lines are largely immune from legal liability arising out of the malpractice of the cruise ship doctors. Without legal and financial consequences, cruise lines like Carnival have little incentive to voluntarily invest in better medical facilities or more experienced and trained doctors and nurses.

Tomorrow Amanda Butler will discuss the circumstances surrounding her mother's death at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

The hearing will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 2:45 p.m. at the 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Be sure to click on the link and watch the hearing.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Derek Kastner

 

 

Death of Birdie Africa on the Carnival Dream Reveals Shortcomings of Emergency Medical Treatment on the High Seas

Last year, we reported on the tragic death of 42 year old Birdie Africa, who drowned in a hot tub aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship during a vacation cruise. 

Back in 1985, Mr. Africa was a child who survived an attack by the Philadelphia Police Department which dropped explosives on the row house of the radical group MOVE. The explosives sparked a blaze that destroyed 61 homes and killed 11 people, including five children. You can read our prior article here.

We first heard of the incident on the Carnival cruise ship when a passenger on the ship notified us that a passenger was found on the bottom of a hot tub. In turn, we asked Carnival for an explanation regarding what Carnival Dreamhappened. Carnival released this statement to us:

"On Friday evening, while the Carnival Dream was en route to its homeport of Port Canaveral, Fla., the shipboard medical staff was notified that a 42-year-old male guest was experiencing a medical emergency. The medical staff responded to the location, one of the ship's Lanai areas, and administered emergency aid but, tragically, the guest passed away."

Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer provides an insight into what really happened. 

The newspaper reports that Mr. Africa's father subsequently spoke to a doctor, vacationing on the Carnival cruise ship with his wife. The doctor said that a "flustered passenger" burst into the ship and told a bartender that "someone was at the bottom of the nearby hot tub."

"The doctor ran outside and saw a crowd gathered around the tub . . . the crowd included members of the ship's staff, seemingly spellbound."

The doctor had to tell the crowd to pull Mr. Africa out of the tub.

" A nurse on the ship's medical staff arrived soon after . . . but she didn't have a defibrillator or other vital equipment.

"Even worse . . . , when the nurse obtained a defibrillator, she was hesitant to use it and allegedly asked a colleague if it was safe to use on a wet body - basic knowledge when using that device."

Mr. Africa's father told the newspaper: "It's just devastating in the fact that there was a potential that he could've lived. Especially the callousness of not only ship's personnel, but the mere aspect of society - that people would rather stand and watch than do something."

Over the past 20 years, we have heard of stories of medical delay and incompetence like this on the part of the cruise ship medical personnel and crew members responding to shipboard drownings.

A cruise ship is the last place that you want to experience a medical emergency. Moreover, most people don't realize that the cruise lines will always argue that cruise ship doctors and nurses are "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are generally not responsible. (Read story number three here). In most situations, passengers' families cannot sue the shipboard medical team even when their negligence kills the passenger.

The autopsy report on Mr. Africa indicates that he was heavily intoxicated. Cruise ships over-serving passengers alcohol is a major problem. Cruise lines make enormous and tax-free profits selling booze on the high seas.  If cruise lines like Carnival are going to sell such huge quantities to passengers, this is another reason why they should employ lifeguards around the pools to oversee passenger safety and to be trained in emergency life saving procedures when things go wrong.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe

Consumer Reports: Don't Get Sick on a Cruise

Cruise Ship Medical FacilitiesA news station in California KFSN (ABC) channel 30 reports that being ill with norovirus or in a medical emergency presents challenges when you are "days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors."

According to a Consumer affairs medical doctor, although many passengers may believe that they are boarding a "floating hospital," a cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand."  

She says "think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition.

The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land. Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications."

The Consumer Affairs medical team also warns that medical care aboard a cruise ship costs a premium.

Cruise ships don't accept medical insurance so consider purchasing travel insurance from an independent company. .

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Passenger from the Carnival Imagination

Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System reports that a San Diego-based Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter evacuated an ill woman from a Carnival cruise ship yesterday.

The Carnival Imagination was approximately 30 miles off the coast of Point Loma, California on May 7, 2014 when it contacted the Coast Guard and requested a medevac for a 41-year-old American woman, believed to be a passenger. She was experiencing abdominal pain.

Video (no audio) credit to U.S. Coast Guard video.   

 

Consumer Reports: Getting Sick at Sea on Cruise Ships

Consumer Reports published a good article about some of the issues cruise passengers will encounter (like norovirus) and has some advice for the traveling public. According to Consumer Reports medical adviser, Dr. Orly Avitzur: 

  • A cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand", than a floating hospital. 
  • Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land.
  • Know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications.
  • Cruise ships don't accept insurance. Get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any on-board care.
  • Buy travel insurance. Avoid policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents and cruise-lines.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard announced today that it rescued a 51-year-old cruise passenger who was suffering from undisclosed medical issues while aboard a Carnival cruise ship approximately 130 miles southwest of Key West, Florida. 


Shortly after noon yesterday, the Coast Guard in Key West received a report from the Carnival Liberty indicating that a cruise passenger suffered an illness while crossing the Gulf of Mexico.


The coast Guard launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Clearwater. 
When the helicopter arrived, the aircrew hoisted the passenger transported him to Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West. 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Passenger From Carnival Splendor

News sources are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a woman from a Carnival cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean off Toms River, New Jersey yesterday. 

The Coast Guard in Philadelphia was notified by the Carnival Splendor that an 84-year-old Canadian woman fell, and sustained injury to her hip, and needed emergency medical treatment. 

A Coast Guard helicopter flew from Atlantic City and medevaced the injured woman from the cruise ship to Atlantic City. 

Carnival released the following statement to Cruise Law News: 

"On Wednesday night a female guest on the Carnival Splendor in need of immediate medical attention was airlifted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter shortly after the vessel departed New York on an eight-day cruise. The guest was taken to a shoreside medical facility for further treatment.

Carnival Splendor is sailing on an eight-day cruise that departed New York on Feb. 5 and is scheduled to return on Feb. 13."

Marine Traffic AIS shows the following tracking for the Splendor:Splendor Cruise Ship AIS 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia - top; Marine Traffic - bottom

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Passenger From Carnival Fantasy Cruise Ship

Carnival Fantasy Cruise ShipThe Tampa Tribune reports that the Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger via helicopter from a Carnival cruise ship today. 

The Coast Guard in Miami sent a helicopter to medically evacuate a 27-year-old man from the Carnival Fantasy after he began experiencing severe abdominal pain. 

The cruise ship was reportedly more than 80 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The helicopter hoisted the sick passenger and a cruise ship nurse off the cruise ship and then transported the ill man to Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach around noon today.

The cruise ship was heading back to Charleston, South Carolina.

Australia Investigates Death of Passenger on Sun Princess

The Courier Mail newspaper reports today on a case involving the death of a 72 year old passenger aboard the Sun Princess cruise ship. The circumstances surrounding the passenger's medical treatment on the ship have led the Attorney General of Queensland to order an inquest into the death.

Australian cruise passenger Betty Virgo was sailing on the Princess cruise ship from Brisbane to New Zealand in November 2012 on a two week cruise.  

Ms. Virgo became ill at dinner on the fifth day of the cruise while the cruise ship was in port in Napier.

Betty VirgoMs. Virgo's daughter, Gayle, was sailing with her. 

Her daughter observed that although all four medical bay beds were empty, the ship's medical staff refused her requests to keep her mother there under observation that night.

The following morning Ms. Virgo's condition continued to deteriorate.

Gayle remained with her mother throughout the day in their cabin, leaving only briefly to eat because she is diabetic. When Gayle returned to the cabin, her mother was gasping for breath. Ms. Virgo was taken by stretcher to the medical center that evening and died soon afterwards as the ship sailed.

The ship doctors diagnosed "angina" as the cause of death. Gayle disputes the diagnosis.  

When Ms. Virgo's body was returned several days later, it had been embalmed without a post mortem examination being conducted or Gayle being consulted. 

To add insult to injury, Carnival Australia, which owns the Sun Princess, offered Gayle a credit of $1,100 towards another cruise. 

Carnival denies that its medical staff neglected Ms. Virgo or provided bad medical care.

We will report on the medical inquest when it become public.

Bad medical care and a lack of responsibility of the cruise lines are issues which we discuss often here on Cruise Law News.  A case involving issues of medical malpractice and a cruise ship doctor evading jurisdiction made our list of the top ten most outrageous cruise ship stories last month.

 

Photo Credit: Adam Head / News Limited via Courier Mail

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Woman from Grandeur of the Seas

According to the Defense Video & Imagery Service, the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 56-year-passenger today from a cruise ship. 

The Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas notified the Coast Guard at approximately 10 PM last night that the woman was is medical distress. The cruise ship was approximately 300 miles east of Orlando, Florida. At approximately 3:30 AM this morning, a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft and an MH-60 Jayhawk took off by Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The helicopter arrived at the cruise ship at 6:20 AM. and transported the woman to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.  

 

Double Duty: Coast Guard Performs Medevacs of Passengers From Norwegian Breakaway and Carnival Fascination

Carnival Fascination Cruise Ship MedevacThe last two days have been busy for the U.S. Coast Guard medevacing ill passengers from cruise ships.

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an 87-year-old woman from the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship off the coast of Ocracoke, North Carolina yesterday. 

The NCL cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard yesterday shortly before noon regarding an elderly passenger who required unspecified medical assistance.

A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flew to the cruise ship from Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The cruise ship was approximately 38 miles off the coast. the helicopter crew hoisted the woman aboard the helicopter and flew her to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina. 

  

The second medevac involved the Coast Guard hoisting a woman from the Carnival Fascination cruise ship. The Coast Guard in Miami said that the Carnival cruise ship contacted it after a woman was showing signs of cardiac arrest on Sunday night.

The ship was approximately 38 miles offshore from St. Lucie County. 

The Coast Guard helicopter flew the woman to Broward General Hospital where she was reportedly in stable condition.  

 

 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Victory

Carnival Victory Cruise Ship ABC News reports that a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter (MH-60) and aircraft (C-130) were dispatched from Clearwater Florida in response to an emergency request from the Carnival's Victory cruise ship this morning.

The cruise ship was reportedly near Cuba at the time of the call.

Cruise passenger Herman Lebron, age 88, was suffering from internal injuries and needed evacuation. 

Mr. Lebron was flown to Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, Florida.

His current medical condition is unknown.

You can see the video of the medevac below, courtesy of  defense video and imagery distribution system.

Two days ago, we posted a story about the Coast Guard medevacing an ill woman from the Carnival Miracle cruise ship. 

Photo Credit: Carnival Victory - Wikipedia / Tomás Fano

Freedom of the Seas Responds to Three Medical Emergencies

Freedom of the Seas - Medical EmergenciesThis evening Cruise Critic reported that Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas altered her itinerary yesterday because three passengers were evacuated from the cruise ship for medical reasons.

The popular online community said that a helicopter airlifted one person from Coco Cay.  Later, the cruise ship was diverted to Nassau, Bahamas to send two other people to the hospital.  A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean reportedly said that the three incidents were not related. 

There was no indication regarding the nature of illnesses and/or injuries or whether the medical emergencies involved passengers or crew members.

The Freedom of the Seas stopped at San Juan today rather than sail to St. Thomas.

There is no indication whether passengers will be offered any type of compensation for the missed port. 

If you have any information about the nature of the medical emergencies, or have video or photos to share, please leave a comment, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Freedom of the Seas - Wikipedia / Andres Manuel Rodriguez

"No Further Information is Available"

Miami Port - Cruise ShipThis weekend, KHOU news station reports from Galveston, Texas that the Carnival Triumph returned to port Saturday afternoon "after a passenger had a medical emergency."

KHOE didn't explain the medical emergency but reported that the U.S. Coast Guard said the medical emergency was not life-threatening, "so they did not fly out to the cruise ship." The cruise ship then told the Coast Guard that it would be "just easier for the ship to return to port and drop the passenger off."

That's the end of the reported story.

If that's not sufficiently uninformative, here's another one from Canada's Herald News: the police are investigating a "sudden death" aboard Holland America Line's Eurodam after a woman was found dead. 

The police in Canada said that the death of the 59-year-old passenger “is not considered suspicious at this time.” 

The newspaper also reports that medical examiner’s officer was called to the scene and "no further information is available."

Are you satisfied with this type of "news?"

Do you believe that the details of stories like this are any of your business? 

Do you think that the cruise lines and official authorities will tell you all you are entitled to know?

 

 Photo Credit: AP Photo / Andy Newman

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Golden Princess

Local news stations in San Francisco are reporting that the U.S. Coast rescued a cruise passengers man suffering from acute kidney failure aboard a Princess cruise ship 40 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday morning.

A 79-year-old Canadian man was demonstrating symptoms of kidney failure while aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship which was sailing to Los Angeles. 

The Coast Guard helicopter lowered a crew member was lowered onto the ship and then hoisted the sick passenger and the cruise ship’s nurse up to the helicopter. 

The passenger flown to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto and was in stable condition Friday afternoon.

Video Credit: U.S. Coast Guard via NBC Bay Area

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Crew Member From Carnival Conquest

The U.S. Coast Guard released a statement that a helicopter crew medevaced a 34-year-old Indonesian crew member from the Carnival Conquest while the cruise ship was sailing 172 miles southeast of New Orleans yesterday.

The 8th Coast Guard District received a report from the Carnival cruise ship that a crew member fell and struck her head on the deck. At the time of the report, the cruise ship was out of the flight range of the helicopter in the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard directed the Carnival cruise ship to head toward New Orleans.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans launched at 9:30 A.M. Carnival Conquest Cruise ShipIt refueled on an offshore drilling rig en route to the cruise ship. The helicopter arrived on scene at 11:20 A.M. and safely hoisted the crew member. The Coast Guard then flew her to Interim LSU Public Hospital for further medical treatment.

Earlier this year, the Coast Guard station in New Orleans medevaced a 46-year-old passenger from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship when the ship was approximately 60 miles south of Southwest Pass. That rescue occurred on February, 16, 2013. The cruise passenger was suffering from a brain hemorrhage and needed medical evacuation to a hospital ashore via helicopter.

Photo Credit: Above Carnival Conquest - Wikimedia / Norman Einstein; below Coast Guard medevac of crew member from Conquest - Jim Zimmerlin

Carnival Conquest Coast Guard Medevac

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Passenger from Norwegian Dawn

Cape Code Today reports that U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 50-year-old man from a NCL cruise ship 160 nautical miles from Nantucket. The man was hoisted by a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and flown to meet an ambulance in Hyannis and then transported to Cape Cod Hospital. 

The cruise ship is reportedly the Bahamian flagged Norwegian Dawn. 

The passenger reportedly ruptured his spleen after being struck by a kayak in Bermuda on Monday.

The Norwegian Dawn is best known to Miami maritime lawyers as the cruise ship involved in the infamous "rogue wave" case in 2005. Passengers contended that NCL risked the passenger's safety by sailing in rough weather back to New York for a filming of The Apprentice with Donald Trump. A lawsuit filed by a different maritime lawyer against NCL ended in a defense verdict for the cruise line.  

Norwegian Dawn

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Daniel Schwen

Pulled from the Fog: 85 Year Old Cruise Passenger Medevaced from Balmoral in English Channel

Balmoral Cruise Ship - Helicopter MedevacThe BBC reports that a Royal Air Force helicopter winched a woman off a cruise ship in the English Channel "after becoming ill with a potentially 'life-threatening' condition."

The passenger is a 85 year old woman who was sailing on board the Balmoral cruise ship. The ship had departed Southampton and was heading to Norway.

BBC states that the medical evacuation by the helicopter took place under difficult circumstances as the helicopter from Suffolk had to flew to the ship, which was in heavy fog, 40 miles out at sea. The weather conditions caused the rescue efforts to become "extremely challenging." 

Visibility was only 165 feet and the cruise ship was describes as "completely enclosed in fog." An airman stated "we had to use radar to locate the vessel because we could barely see."

The 85-year-old woman was transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Tvabutzku1234

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Returns to Port with Medical Emergencies

Disney Fantasy Cruise ShipThe Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the Disney Fantasy cruise ship returned to Port Canaveral yesterday night shortly after sailing from the Florida port after 2 passengers experienced medical emergencies. 

The medical emergencies involved a 6 year old child with diabetes and a 77 year old man with a heart condition. 

The Disney cruise ship initially sailed from Port Canaveral around 5 PM but returned at around 8:30 PM to disembark the two passengers for emergency medical treatment at a local hospital.

Readers will recall that the Disney Fantasy was the location of a near-drowning last week when a 4 year old child slipped below the water in the Donald Pool which is not staffed with a lifeguard.  The incident sparked a debate about parental responsibility and whether the pool was safely designed and adequately staffed. You can read about that incident here

 

Photo Credit: Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel

Coast Guard Medevacs Cruise Passenger From Carnival Conquest

The U.S. Coast Guard saves the day again.

This time Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans medevacs a 46-year-old man from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship approximately 60 miles south of Southwest Pass, of Louisiana on February, 16, 2013. The cruise passenger was reportedly suffering from symptoms associated with a brain hemorrhage.

Click on the "Rescue" category to the left and you can watch a large number of medical evacuations performed by our U.S. Coast Guard of ill and injured cruise passengers and crew members each year. 

Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station New Orleans.

 

Emergency Medevac of Sick Passenger from Crown Princess?

Coast Guard Rescue Crown Princess Cruise ShipI am being told by a reliable source that the U.S. Coast Guard is about to conduct an emergency medevac of an ill passenger from the Crown Princess cruise ship which is heading to Galveston and will arrive tomorrow.

It is less than clear whether there is any connection to the norovirus outbreak on the cruise ship.  The cruise has been under red level disease alert throughout the crossing from Europe.

The ship is facing heavy swells and the helicopter is facing strong winds.

The last medevac from the Crown Princess was in March.  You can see the video here.

Does anyone have information to confirm this latest story?

December 21, 2012 Update:  There's an update to this story we reported this morning:

The incident involves a 68 year old woman who was suffering from internal bleeding and had to be medevaced by a Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter which flew 140 miles south of the Mississippi River's Southwest Pass to the Princess cruise ship. The Times Picaynue states that the cruise ship alerted the Coast Guard station in New Orleans about 2 AM this morning, reporting that the woman had received blood transfusions on the ship. At the time, the ship was about 200 miles offshore. 

 

Photo and video credit: U.S. Coast Guard

South African Man Sues MSC Cruises for Medical Negligence

A newspaper in South African reports that a man cruising aboard a MSC cruise ship has sued the cruise line, Mediterranean Shipping Company, for damages after experiencing a heart attack last year. The incident took place in April of 2011 while Hilton Curgenven was sailing aboard the MSC Sinfonia.

The gist of the lawsuit is that the cruise line allegedly provided Mr. Curgenven with sub-standard care and then dumped him in a port alone on a stretcher of the wharf. He alleges that the shipboard care consisted only of giving him an injection following which he went into a coma for six weeks.  Instead of airlifting him to a hospital, the cruise ship abandoned him at port in Durban and left a MSC Sinfonia Cruise Shipnote on the stretcher diagnosing him with "severe chest pain and myocardial infarct . . . "  He claims that "thankfully, someone who knew me called an ambulance .  .  ." 

The case highlights some of the issues we have warned about in this blog, namely that the medical care on cruise ships is limited. Cruise lines are spending over a billion dollars building some cruise ships. But instead of investing in medical technology and premier doctors, the lines are paying for skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and flowrider attractions.  

The case also reveals that, as a general proposition, doctors and nurses on cruise ships are considered to be "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are not responsible. The ship doctors may appear and act like they are ship employees but they are characterized as independent contractors in the fine print of the cruise ship ticket.    

MSC Cruises responded to the lawsuit saying that Curgenven had entered into a contract knowing the Sinfonia was not equipped as a hospital and that medical personnel were not specialists. The cruise line also points out that Curgenven had failed to purchase his own insurance as well.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Edgar Freitas

Crew Medical Care: 3 Recommendations to the Cruise Lines

Here's another great guest bog by one of our attorneys here at Cruise Law, Charles Gourlis, who takes a look at cruise line medical care for ship employees: 

Not all cruise lines are made equal. Some provide adequate medical treatment to their injured crew members, but there are several cruise lines that just won’t get “on board” (pun intended).

I try to live up to the saying, “Don’t Just Complain, Do Something About It!” So, in that spirit, I have a few recommendations for our friends at the cruise lines. My recommendations:

1. Invest in Quality Shipboard Physicians

Most shipboard doctors either were not qualified to attend medical school in the U.S. and are not licensed in the U.S. Most cruise lines hire non-U.S. doctors because it’s cheaper than hiring U.S. Cruise Ship Medical Caredoctors. If shipowners paid their doctors salaries that were competitive with U.S. salaries, they would attract better-trained physicians. The quality of care would improve, diagnoses would become more accurate, and more serious injuries & illnesses would be prevented.

2. Bring Your Crew Members to Miami for Treatment

Most injured crew members are repatriated to their home country to receive medical treatment from doctors in their home country. This presents the same problem as problem number one. By bringing ill or injured crew to Miami for immediate treatment, all examinations, tests, and doctor’s visits are conducted by U.S. physicians here in Miami. Again, the quality of care would improve, the amount of care needed would decrease as American physicians more precisely diagnose conditions and deliver timely treatment, the need for drawn-out care would decrease.

3. Pay Your Crew Members, Not Your Defense Lawyers

As I outlined in my first guest bog post, most crew members sue only after the cruise line stops paying maintenance & cure and the crew member becomes destitute. The cruise line could prevent problems by coordinating with its local agents to ensure that all injured crew members receive maintenance payments on a timely basis every month and are promptly scheduled for medical appointments. As a result, thousands of crew members don’t languish at home while the defense lawyers for the cruise line earn their holiday bonus defending the cruise line.

Following these recommendations, the cruise lines could actually save the cruise line millions of dollars a year in needless medical and legal expenses. If the human factor wan’t a compelling enough reason to change the business practices, dozen’t saving money make a strong business case for pro-active medical treatment?

 

Photo credit: Pullmantur.es

88 Year Old Passenger Medevaced From Voyager of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Medevac - Voyager of the Seas Cruise ShipThere is a nice article in the West Australia newspaper about a elderly cruise passenger who had the misfortune of falling on a cruise ship.    

The article, entitled Love is in the Air Amid Rescue, explains that 88 year-old passenger Ms. Eileen Ewins was traveling with her husband, George Ewins, on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas as the ship re-positioned to Australia for the next 6 months. She fell as she was exiting her cabin and broke her hip. The ship doctor determined that Ms. Ewins needed to be treated on an emergency basis ashore. 

The accident happened on day 12 of the 14 day cruise.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority contacted an offshore helicopter company, the Bristow Group, which sent a helicopter and team of five staff members to fly to cruise ship off of western Australia. 

The helicopter winched both 88 year-old Ms. Ewins as well as her 89 year old husband up and flew them to the Royal Perth Hospital.

"We do everything together," Mr. Perth told the newspaper. 

This is the fourth medevac of an ill passenger from a cruise ship in the last week, including another elderly passenger medevaced from a cruise ship off of the western coast of Australia.

Friends Bring Fellow Passenger Back to Life on Carnival Glory

This morning, the Free Lance newspaper in Fredericksburg, Virginia published a cruise story with a happy ending. Entitled "Friends’ Actions Aboard Ship Save Woman’s Life," the article is about cruise passenger Patty Bliss who joined 25 other women from the Sheriff’s Office and government offices in Stafford County for a weekend getaway two weeks ago on Carnival Glory’s “cruise to nowhere.” 

Shortly after boarding the cruise ship, the women were enjoying food and drinks on deck. Suddenly, Ms. Bliss slumped over in her chair.  

The women observed Ms. Bliss not breathing. She had no pulse. Her skin turned grayish–purple. She had suffered sudden cardiac arrest, causing her heart to stop pumping blood throughout her body.  “I thought she was gone,” said one pf the women, Sgt. Nancy Morin, who was also traveling with two Carnival Glory Cruise to Nowhere - Heart attackdaughters. Morin's oldest daughter was certain that Ms. Bliss was dead. She began crying.

But Sgt. Morin and Detective Christine Hammond sprang into action. They initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation with Morin compressing her heart and Hammond blowing into Bliss’ mouth. The newspaper writes:

Bliss’ heart didn’t start beating on its own. Other women in the group asked crew members for an automated external defibrillator, a device that sends an electric shock to people suffering from cardiac arrest . . . .

. . .  crew members weren’t responding, but instead “ran around in circles trying to figure out what to do.”

One of the women in the group then clapped her hands in the face of one crew members and told him to get the device “and get it now!”

By this point, Morin and Hammond reportedly had given CPR to Ms. Bliss for 15 to 20 minutes.

According to the newspaper, when the defibrillator arrived, a crew member shocked Bliss once, but the device indicated another shock was needed. When the crew member hesitated, one of the women pushed the button to shock Bliss again and again. 

Finally an ambulance took Ms. Bliss off of the cruise ship to a hospital where the doctors implanted a defibrillator in her chest.  

Ms. Bliss may have missed the "cruise to nowhere," but she was fortunate to fall ill in port around a group of women trained on how to save her life. 

Coast Guard Medevacs Carnival Paradise Cruise Passenger

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that it medevaced a 50 year old passenger from the Carnival cruise ship Paradise approximately 30 miles west of Venice, Florida last night.

The Coast Guard station in St. Petersburg Florida received a request at 10:30 p.m., from the Carnival Paradise for a medical evacuation of a man who was suffering from a suspected cardiac attack. Crew members aboard the cruise ship were able to resuscitate the passenger and return him to stable condition but wanted him to be taken to the hospital.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., launched to the scene.  Once on scene at 11:42 p.m., the helicopter crew was able to safely hoist the man, his wife and a nurse and transport them to Bradenton Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, Florida.

 

Carnival Paradise Cruise Ship

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Beau Hudspeth - Digi-Gen Design Studios - Photography

Coast Guard Medevacs Ill Cruise Passenger From Carnival Glory

The U.S. Coast Guard website reports that it medically evacuated a 41-year-old woman from the Carnival Glory cruise ship today.  The passenger reportedly exhibited stroke-like symptoms.

The cruise ship was approximately 55 miles southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts at the time of the emergency.

Coast Guard Sector Boston received the word from the Carnival cruise ship at approximately 3:35 p.m. In response, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the scene. Carnival Glory Cruise Ship Coast Guard MedevacThe helicopter hoisted the ill woman up to safety and then transported her to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I.

The Coast Guard website quotes a John Tomaszewski , a search and rescue coordinator at Sector Boston, "our crews launched swiftly . . . they were able to hoist her and get her the care she needed.

The Coast Guard did not comment on the passenger's medical condition.  

The last medevac from the Carnival Glory occurred, according to our records, in May 2010 when the Coast Guard in Miami rescued that a 36 year-old pregnant woman who needed emergency medical treatment.  

Read about other Coast Guard rescues here

Coast Guard medevacs like this are always the highlight of Cruise Law News.  The Coast Guard just celebrated its 222nd birthday! 

Anyone with photos, video or information about this latest Coast Guard rescue, please leave a comment. 

 

Photo: Space Coast Blogger

"Dumped in the Caribbean" - Washington Post Takes a Look at What Happens When You Have a Heart Attack on a Cruise Ship

The Travel section of the Washington Post has an article today about what happens if you are unfortunate enough to have a heart attack while sailing on a cruise in the Caribbean.  Things often get worse when the cruise ship wants to limit its liability and dumps you off in a Caribbean port.

No offense to the wonderful people in the Caribbean, but its not the place to be while trying to manage a heart attack.

I'm quoted in the article. I'm sure the cruise line PR people and tourism officials in the islands may have a heart attack reading my quotes.

If so, here's the same advice I give to a sick cruise passenger.  Call the first available medical jet and get your sick heart to see a board certified cardiologist in Miami.  And I hope that you purchased lots of insurance before going on the cruise.

Here is the article, written by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott - The Navigator: When You’re Sick at Sea.     

U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Injured Passenger From Carnival Fantasy

Carnival Fantasy Cruise Ship - Injury - Coast Guard MedevacA newspaper in Savannah reports that yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 63 year old woman from a cruise ship sailing in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 60 miles east of Savannah to a local hospital in Savannah. 

Coast Guard Sector Charleston received notification at about around 10:08 p.m. Saturday night from crew members aboard the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship via VHF-FM marine radio channel 16. The cruise ship reported that  that the woman had fallen down some stairs, suffered a laceration on her head, and was in need of medical attention that could not be provided on the ship.

The newspaper states that at approximately 11:14 p.m., the Coast Guard launched an MH-65 Dolphin air rescue crew which arrived on at the cruise ship around 11:40 p.m. The helicopter hoisted the injured woman and a cruise ship nurse from the deck of the cruise ship and transported them to the hospital. 

The newspaper does not mention where the cruise passenger was from.

There have been a number of Coast Guard medevacs from the Carnival Fantasy recently.  On April 24, 2012, the Coast Guard medevaced a 56 year old man from the Fantasy when it was 60 miles southeast of Jacksonville, Florida. A week later, the Coast Guard rescued a 57 year old man from the same ship while it was sailing 160 miles southwest of Marco Island.

 

Photo credit:  Wikipedia

Carnival Dream Turns Into Deadly Nightmare

Courthouse News reports today on a disturbing story regarding a cruise passenger's death due to what is alleged to be delayed and inadequate shipboard medical care.

The story involves John and Victoria Showers who sailed from Miami on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Dream.

After leaving Miami, Ms. Showers complained of constipation. She went ashore in Cozumel, the following day, where she purchased laxatives that didn't help her. The article states that Ms. Showers experienced severe abdominal pain while back on the cruise ship. The following morning, Mr. Showers called the ship's medical personnel, who eventually sent a wheelchair to their cabin and took Ms. Showers to the infirmary.

Carnival Dream Cruise Ship - Medical Malpractice But instead of seeing a ship doctor, Ms. Showers was seen by who appears to be a nurse who did not take a history, or take her vital signs, or examine her according to Mr. Showers.  All the cruise employee did, according to the article, was to give Ms. Showers two fleet enemas.

When the ship doctor finally saw Ms. Showers later in the afternoon, he diagnosed a bowel obstruction after examining her.  The ship doctor recommended she she be seen at a medical center in Belize where crew members are treated.

Once Ms. Showers was ashore in Belize City, the doctors there stated that they could not provide emergency treatment for her. Mr. Showers had to arrange for emergency medical evacuation of his wife to Miami.

The doctors in Miami found that fecal matter had entered Ms. Showers abdominal cavity, causing an infection and other severe complications. Following hospitalization from November 4th and many surgeries later, Ms. Showers died on December 22nd.

We have written many articles about bad medical care on cruise ships and in the Caribbean, and the difficulties holding cruise lines responsible for medical malpractice.  Read: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

The Coast Guard reports that it medically evacuated a 56 year passenger from the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship sixty miles southeast of Jacksonville on Today.

Crew members on board the cruise ship notified the Coast Guard just after 8 AM that a male passenger was experiencing respiratory failure and needed medical attention.

Coast Guard Air Station Savannah launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter rescue crew to the scene.

The helicopter arrived at the location of the Fantasy around 10 AM.  The crew lifted the passenger from the deck, along with his wife and a cruise ship nurse, and transport them to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.  The passenger is reportedly in stable condition. 

Coast Guard Busy Rescuing Sick Cruise Passengers: Three Medevacs in Ten Days

The United States Coast Guard has been busy rescuing ill passengers from cruise ships over the past week. 

Today a newspaper in North Carolina reports that a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced a 49 year old woman from the Carnival Pride cruise ship.  The ship was near Virginia at the time of the emergency medical evacuation.  The medical condition of the passenger was not disclosed.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, launched to assist, hoisted the woman and ship’s nurse and took them to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

Yesterday, the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Belle Chase (near New Orleans) into the Gulf of Mexico to rescue a man aboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas cruise ship.  According to a newspaper in New Orleans, a MH-65C helicopter flew 132 miles into the Gulf to medevac the passenger who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms. The Coast Guard then transferred the passenger to Touro Infirmary in New Orleans.

Last week, the Coast Guard medevaced a man from the Crown Princess, operated by Princess Cruises.  I don't have any information about this medevac. Does anyone have any information about this event or the other two medevacs?

A video of the Crown Princess rescue (credit tigertran01/youtube)  is below. 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs 47 Year Old Passenger From NCL Jewel

Yesterday a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter medevaced a 47 year old woman female off a cruise ship.  The cruise ship was approximately 115 miles northeast of Cape Henry.  

The captain of the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard at around 5 PM, reporting they had a passenger with severe abdominal pains who needed medical attention ashore.
 
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. were dispatched to the scene.  The helicopter crew hoisted the woman and her husband off the cruise ship at approximately 7 PM.
 
The couple were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
 
 
 

 

Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard

Coast Guard Medevacs 73 Year Old Passenger From Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship

A 73 tear old passenger from the Carnival Triumph received a ride of a lifetime when an U.S. Coast Guard helicopter plucked him from the deck of the cruise ship and flew him to Galveston for emergency medical treatment.

The Carnival cruise ship was around 120 miles off the coast of Galveston when the Coast Guard performed the medical evacuations early Friday yesterday morning.

Carnival notified the Coast Guard around 10 PM Thursday night that the cruise passenger had a blood clot in his foot and needed immediate medical treatment.  An MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter was dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station Houston around 11:40 PM>  As you can see from the Coast Guard video below, they helicopter crew successfully lifted the passengers from the Triumph cruise ship. He was flown to the University of Texas Medical Center in Galveston.

We have reported on around a dozen Coast Guard - cruise ship medevacs this year.

 

Video credit:  U.S. Coast Guard via Houston Chronicle

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Passenger from Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger from the Queen May 2 cruise ship off of the coast of North Carolina.

The video below shows the the skilled crew of a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter lifting a 64 year old woman from the deck of the QM2 cruise ship.  The passenger was suffering from severe abdominal pains.  The cruise ship was sailing 110 miles off the coast of Nags Head, North Carolina on December 20, 2011.  The Coast Guard flew the ill woman to a hospital in Norfolk Virginia. 

 

 

Video Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick NCL Cruise Passenger

A number of news sources are reporting that yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill cruise passengerman from a cruise ship to a North Carolina hospital for treatment.

The ship doctor on the Norwegian Cruise ine's Gem cruise ship notified the Coast Guard that  a 38-year-old man was going into shock. The cruise ship was reportedly about 75 miles east of Wilmington at the time.

A helicopter from the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City North Carolina then flew the man from the cruise ship to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.

The Coast Guard says the man was in stable condition. His name was not released.

 

Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Do Cruise Passengers Have Any Rights?

CBC News in Canada published a story this week about cruise passenger Bernie Hamilton, age 66, who died following a Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise due to what sounds like a series of errors by the ship's medical personnel.  The article is entitled "Cruise Death Prompts Warning on Ships' Medical Care."  

I have heard these stories time after time over the years.   A couple excited about a dream vacation.  The husband experiences medical issues during the cruise which a competent doctor ashore would easily handle.  But due to blunders by the cruise ship medical team, the wife returns home alone to face the cruise line's denials of responsibility for the suffering and death.

In Bernie Hamilton's case, you can read about the ship doctor's misdiagnosis by concluding that Mr. Hamilton had just a common cold or perhaps asthma which led to a prescription of Ventolin which accelerates a patient's heart rate.  You can read that after Mr. Hamilton collapsed on Holland America Line - Cruise Ship Medical Carethe floor of the cabin, his wife Heather had to witness the spectacle of the medical personnel trying to decipher the instructions for the automatic defibrillator as precious minutes ticked away on her husband's life.  

After the ship medical team struggled to insert an intravenous line and intubation tube and finally "stabilized" Mr. Hamilton, the ship put Mr. Hamilton ashore in Spain where the shore-side doctors declared him brain dead.

Ms. Hamilton received no apologies from HAL.  The cruise line is quoted in the article saying that they "believe the care provided to Mr. Hamilton was appropriate."  All that Ms. Hamilton received from HAL was a bill for $2,000.

Last year, I wrote an article "If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad" which explains the dangers provided by the limited nature of cruise ship medical care and the difficulty seeking compensation when malpractice of the ship doctor or nurses harms your family. 

Yes, doctors and nurses make mistakes, but a cruise ship is about the only place where a doctor can negligently kill your loved one and there is no accountability. 

As I mentioned last year, as long as cruise lines are not liable for bad medical care, there is no financial incentive for the ships to invest in training and hiring more qualified and experienced doctors and nurses.

There is no economic or moral justification for such an inequitable situation. The cruise industry collects over $35 billion dollars a year and pays no Federal income taxes by registering their cruise ships in foreign countries.  As long as travel agents, cruise fans and the public are indifferent to these type of stories, in the future other families will experience the horror of dream vacations going terribly wrong.

 

Photo credit:   CBC News / Heather Hamilton

U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Sick Cruise Passenger From Carnival Spirit

The LA Times reports that yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard saved the life of a 77 year old cruise passenger from the Carnival Spirit while the cruise ship was 230 miles southwest of San Diego. 

The cruise passenger reportedly showed signs of a stroke and was medically evacuated from the Carnival cruise ship by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter dispatched from San Diego.

The video below shows the helicopter lifting someone who appears to be a nurse, then the ill passenger, and finally a member of the helicopter crew.

Thank God that ill passengers have the benefit of skilled and dedicated men and women of our country's Coast Guard to help them out in tight spots like this:    

 

 

 

Video credit:

U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego; produced by PADET San Diego: and edited by Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry G. Dunphy

Jury Hits Celebrity Cruises with $1,000,000 Verdict for Unnecessary Pacemaker Surgery

Yesterday, a jury in Miami returned a $1,000,000 verdict against a Miami based cruise line whose ship employee underwent an unnecessary surgery to insert a pacemaker which he did not need.

The case involves a Celebrity Cruises chef, Shalesh Buttoo, who experienced headaches and pain to his face while working on a Celebrity cruise ship.  Although only 31 years old and apparently in good health, a doctor in Santo Domingo inserted a pacemaker into the crewmember's chest.  The issues at trial focused on whether Mr. Buttoo needed such a surgery and, assuming he did, whether the surgery was properly performed.   

In 2009, the cruise line had flown Mr. Buttoo from Europe, where the Celebrity cruise ship was based, to Santo Domingo.  We wrote about the danger of sending injured or ill crewmembers to Santo Domingo in order to reduce medical expenses for crew back in November 2009.  You can Medical Treatment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?  read our thoughts here.  You can read another article we wrote here: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

For those readers not up on international geography, Santo Domingo is in the Dominican Republic, adjacent to Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. 

Mr. Buttoo testified at trial that the pacemaker caused him debilitating injuries and forced him to use a walker.  The pace maker not only medically unnecessary but was improperly placed and caused inflammation.  He eventually traveled to Miami for follow up medical care where cardiac surgeons removed the pacemaker.

The jury found the cruise line negligent in its care and treatment of its crewmember and returned a $1,000,000 verdict.  Cruise lines are vicariously liable for the bad medical treatment rendered to their crewmembers.

Mr. Butto's trial lawyer in Miami, Earvin Gonzalez, argued that Celebrity Cruises sent the ship employee to Santo Domingo to save money because the doctors in the Dominican Republic are much cheaper than in Europe or here in Miami where Celebrity Cruises is based.  Mr. Gonzalez commented on the verdict:

“I am pleased that the jury was able to appreciate the level of harm caused by Celebrity and awarded damages to compensate Mr. Buttoo for what he went through.  Although no amount of money will ever erase the horror of being implanted with a heart device he did not need, the amount awarded allowed Mr. Buttoo to feel that justice was served.  It is important for ship owners to recognize the need to provide their crew with quality health care and to listen to their needs, rather than taking a calloused and uncaring approach.  The crew is part of the Cruise line’s family and they should be treated like family members and not like indentured servants.”

Celebrity Cruises was represented by Jeffrey Foreman and Noah Silverman of the Miami firm Foreman Friedman.  They declined to respond to our request for a comment.

Coast Guard to Rescue Three Passengers from HAL Cruise Ship Oosterdam

At this moment the U.S. Coast Guard is in the process of medevacing three elderly passengers from a cruise ship 100 miles east of from Hilo, Hawaii. 

The Republic reports that an 86 year old man appears to having a heart attack, an 82 year old man has symptoms of internal bleeding, and a 76 year old woman is suffering from abdominal pains.

The helicopter deployed two helicopters and a plane to the Holland America Line cruise ship, the Oosterdam.  The cruise ship is headed for San Diego.  The Coast Guard intends to take the ill passengers to Hilo Medical Center.

A cruise ship in the middle of the ocean is not where you want to be if you are gravely ill. 

The newspaper reports that a Coast Guard flight surgeon made the decision to medically evacuate the elderly passengers after hearing about their conditions from the ship's medical staff.

We have covered lots of cruise ship medevac stories, but none involving three separate passengers in need of emergency medical evacuation.

If you are on the cruise ship and have information or photographs or video of the medevac, please leave us a comment below. 

 

 

Video Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard / Department of Homeland Security

NCL Abandons Elderly Woman with Sick Husband in Columbia, Proclaims Its Their Fault

NCL Cruise Horror StoryA local news station in Tampa, WTSP 20 News, has a story about an elderly couple's cruise horror story. 

Betty and Ronald Coleman from Port Ritchie Florida were sailing on a Panama Canal cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl when Mr. Coleman contracted what is described as norovirus.  NCL put the Colemans ashore in Cartegena Columbia without contacting the couple's son Mark, even though they listed him as the emergency contact on paperwork the cruise line required them to fill out. 

Ms. Coleman, who was obviously overwhelmed by trying to take care of her sick husband, complains: "My son is on the paper you sign, for next of kin to be called in case of an emergency. I would have thought they would have notified him if they are leaving me in a foreign country."  

The couple's son first learned of his parent's plight after receiving a frantic call from his mother.  She did not know where she was.  NCL subsequently told him that that she was still on the cruise ship.  Finally, Mark had to contact the State Department to find his parents.

NCL claims that it provided the couple with an opportunity to call home, but the Colemans allegedly "chose not to."   How and why this allegedly occurred is not explained.  But a cruise line should never disembark an elderly couple like this in a foreign country without first making sure that it contacted the emergency contact.  It's far fetched to believe that the couple instructed NCL not to call the emergency contact.  It's inexcusable for NCL not to have done so.  Ms. Coleman seemed stressed out and Mr. Coleman, described in the video as " . . . so sick that he could not sit up to even sign a paper," was obviously so ill NCL didn't want him on its cruise ship.  

NCL issued a completely unrepentant press release.  NCL side stepped the norovirus issue, denied responsibility for not telling the family of the emergency, and claimed that the Colemans were, in fact, "appreciative" of the cruise line agent's assistance ashore in Columbia.

  

 

The guest relations team on a cruise ship should always contact the emergency contact number whenever it forces a family off of a cruise ship in a medical emergency.

Blaming the sick elderly guest in a case like this reflects poorly on the cruise lines' manners.

For other similar stories, read:

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

Dramatic Rescue of Critically Ill, Wheelchair Bound Cruise Passenger from Independence of the Seas

BBC News is reporting today on the dramatic rescue of a critically ill passenger from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.

The U.K. Coast Guard was notified by the captain of the Independence of the Seas on Saturday night that a passenger was very ill and needed to be evacuated from the cruise ship.  A helicopter was dispatched from Portland, which is in southern England on the Dorset coast, 23 miles out to the cruise ship.  

Medevac - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship - Medical EmergencyThe BBC reports that the helicopter was too heavy for the cruise ship's landing pad.  The vessel's crew had to lift the passenger, in her wheelchair, up and into the helicopter as it hovering above them. 

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman is quoted stating "in a supreme example of skill, the coastguard helicopter pilot touched the wheels of the aircraft on to the moving deck of the Independence of the Seas, keeping the rotors powered-up so that no weight was taken by the relatively fragile landing pad."

The helicopter then flew the ill woman and her husband to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

The BBC did not comment on the nature of the cruise passenger's critical illness.

We have received comments from crew and passengers that the Independence of the Seas has been experiencing Norovirus outbreaks for much of this year, although it is unknown what ailed this particular passenger.

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news when an oil tanker exploded while the cruise ship was docked at the port in Gibraltar.   

 

Photo credit:  Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Fertig via Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (image is of U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter responding to a medical emergency aboard the Explorer of the Seas 230 miles east of Cape Henry Virginia on March 11, 2011.) 

Coast Guard Medevacs Carnival Passenger

WVEC (local ABC channel 13) reports that the Coast Guard airlifted an ill  60 year old passenger from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina yesterday. 

The passenger was sailing on Carnival's Miracle when he had a heart attack.

The Coast Guard sent a MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City to medevac the man from the Carnival cruise ship, which was about 43 miles off the North Carolina coast.  The passenger was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Two Princess Cruise Ships Diverted to Bermuda to Disembark Sick Passengers

A magazine in Bermuda is reporting that two cruise ships recently diverted toward Bermuda to transfer ill passengers ashore for medical treatment.

On May 9th, the Princess Crown Princess diverted to Bermuda to disembark a 57 year old male passenger who was suffering from breathing difficulties. The magazine reports that the pilot cutter St. George met the cruise ship at the sea buoy and the sick passenger was transfered between the two vessels. 

Pilot Boat - Cruise ShipOpen water passenger transfers are potentially dangerous exercises.  You will recall that a rescue vessel recently dropped an elderly passenger into freezing water while trying to transfer her ashore.  A recent investigation found that the crew used unsafe procedures and did not even place a life vest on the sick passenger.

In this case, the Princess passenger was transferred safely to the pilot boat and then ashore where an awaiting ambulance transported him to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. 

The second diversion occured on May 7th when Princess' Grand Princess altered course toward Bermuda to disembark a 55 year old male passenger who needed urgent medical attention.  The passenger was also transfered ashore via the same pilot boat.

Both Princess cruise ships were sailing from Port Everglades, Florida to the Azores Islands.

 

Photo credit  kathhooson Flickr

NCL Crew Member Medevaced to Bermuda

Norwegian Sun Cruise ShipThe Royal Gazette newspaper reports that a crew member from the the Norwegian Sun cruise ship was transported to Bermuda because of a medical emergency.

The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was near Bermuda after sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida en route to the Azores when the 23 year old Peruvian crew member became ill.

The cruise ship took the crew member off the ship by stretcher to a pilot vessel which transported her to the island of Bermuda where she was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Cruise Lines like NCL have a non-delegable duty to provide prompt, adequate and complete medical care to their ill and injured crew members. 

Medevacs involving crewmembers are relatively rare, especially compared to medical evacuations of passengers.

Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care

Every so often, I will read an article which reminds me why I practice maritime law and represent crew members from around the world.  Here is an article from Miami's New Times about several of our clients.  Although it was published several years ago, it reveals how cruise lines today mistreat crew members to try and save money.  

"Doran McDonald reached Miami International Airport at dawn, limping and hopping to a pay phone after his third flight in 24 hours. His right leg had been boiled, and the odor of decay oozed from his burned flesh. The top of his foot was a grapefruit-size blister, the stretched skin tight and shiny. McDonald hadn't been able to elevate his leg at all on the flights from Alaska to Vancouver, or from Vancouver to Los Angeles, or from L.A. to Miami. The swelling and pressure were excruciating and he was close to passing out from the pain. He was afraid the next two segments of his trip (Miami to Antigua, Antigua to St. Vincent) would be unbearable. Adding to his discomfort was the thought of Doran McDonald - Royal Caribbean Medical Carearriving in his native St. Vincent: His family lived two hours from the airport and didn't have a car; he had no idea how he'd get home. McDonald would arrive on the island on a Sunday morning. No doctor would see him for at least another day. 

McDonald, a small, soft-spoken 29-year-old, did what any man facing such obstacles would do: He called his mother.

Pearlie Hector was angry. She thought her son should never have boarded an airplane, that he should still be in the Juneau, Alaska, hospital where he had received preliminary medical care the day before. Most of all, she thought Doran was being mistreated by Royal Caribbean International, the cruise line he was working for when he was burned. Hector told her son to call Miami lawyer James Walker, who had represented another family member in a case against a cruise line years before, and she told him to go to a hospital in Miami.

McDonald's decision to stay and retain a lawyer resulted in his receiving a quality of medical care he wouldn't have had access to on St. Vincent, but it also prompted Royal Caribbean to set in motion the federal government's immigration policy machinery. Within a month McDonald would be languishing at Krome Detention Center.

The massive ocean liners that steam out of the Port of Miami almost every weekend look like whole city blocks torn free and headed for the Caribbean. Happy passengers, unmoored from daily responsibility for a weekend or more, lean against the rails beatifically smiling and waving to MacArthur Causeway motorists. It is a long way from the upper decks of a cruise ship to sea level, and no one knows that better than the workers who inhabit the lower stations of such a vessel.

Passages honeycomb the great ships' interiors, opening onto cavernous ballrooms and opulent luxury suites. Endless hallways of cabins each morning disgorge tourists who scurry to sprawling, dining rooms or outdoor bars next to bright-blue pools that shimmer in the sun like clear, antiseptic simulacra of the murkier ocean below. Deep in the bowels of a cruise liner are the smaller rooms with bunk beds where the workers live. Employees tend the engine, cook the food, and clean the Cruise Line Medical Care - Crew Memberpools. If they're lucky, they tend bar or wait tables. Others clean rooms and fluff pillows.

Some, like Doran McDonald, wake up in the middle of the night to make use of the only lull in the never-ending demand for food onboard a luxury liner. They file into the galleys and wipe every surface from counters to walls, cleaning the daily residue of bacon grease and chicken fat, sweeping up stray sprigs of parsley and shreds of lettuce from hastily thrown together salads.

McDonald, like many cruise line employees, is from a poor country. The big ships provide an inviting economic opportunity for men and women from Third World nations in Eastern Europe, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean.

The sailor had something else in common with his fellow galley workers when he rolled out of his bunk around midnight on May 20, 2002, pulled on rubber boots, and trudged into the kitchen to start cleaning: a desire to move up to a higher-paying job in the dining room. "When I work for Premier I am a waiter, and the money then was very good," McDonald says. "But when I go to Royal Caribbean, I start over again at the bottom."

McDonald was no stranger to shipboard living -- even for $500 a month, doing janitorial duty onboard a cruise ship was more remunerative than harvesting bananas in St. Vincent. McDonald had gone to work for Premier Cruise Line in 1998, and advanced from galley worker to waiter, a job in which he made more than $1000 a month and sent much of it home. But in 2000 Premier went bankrupt. McDonald started over at Royal Caribbean in 2002.

May 20 was only McDonald's second night onboard the Legend of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship cruising from Miami to Alaska via the Panama Canal, but he figured the work was routine. He would sweep and mop and scrub, and then go back to bed. He would mentally tote up his earnings and plan to send them to his mother in St. Vincent.

The kitchen was a mess, and McDonald says his supervisor told everyone to work quickly. Mops were handed out like rifles to infantrymen, and a crew of eight began hustling through their cleaning routine. McDonald picked up a pot full of oil from a fryer that had just been switched off. The pot was heavy and hot, and the oil made tiny shimmering waves as he labored to carry it to a Crew Member Medical Care - Cruise Linesink where he could dump and scour. Halfway to his destination, McDonald slipped. He felt nothing as the scalding liquid drained down inside the rubber boot on his right leg, but jolts of adrenalin shot through the numbness as the oil cooked his leg and the top of his foot.

His crewmates carried him to the ship's clinic, where he was given ibuprofen. Doctors decided to wait and observe the afflicted area in order to determine how bad the burn was.

This is where McDonald's story and Royal Caribbean's diverge. According to company policy, if an employee is taken to an emergency room, the attending doctor will determine what kind of care is appropriate and where and when such treatment should be given. But McDonald says that the ship's doctor already told him he would be sent home to St.Vincent before he was taken to the hospital in Juneau. In depositions taken later, cruise line employees claimed that they adhered to the policy.

Notes written by the emergency room doctor in Juneau indicate that McDonald believed already that he would be sent to St. Vincent.

The ER doctor's notes also make it clear that McDonald's burns were mostly second-degree, with the possibility of some third-degree burns, a direct refutation of Royal Caribbean's claim that McDonald only had second-degree burns and was, therefore, fit to travel. Royal Caribbean medical case manager Terri DeBrita, who admittedly didn't know if the doctor she was sending McDonald to in St. Vincent had any medical license, said in a deposition that other crew members had received satisfactory treatment for second-degree burns in St. Vincent, though she couldn't remember any such cases specifically.

On May 24, after four days of nothing but ibuprofen on board the ship, McDonald began his journey from Vancouver to Miami.

When McDonald called a lawyer at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, the attorney was annoyed. "I was in bed when I got the call from Mr. McDonald, and I thought, Jesus, what a hassle, you know?" says James Walker. "I thought it was probably nothing, but I knew his family, so I dragged myself out of bed."

Walker was aghast when he saw McDonald's foot. "The smell was disgusting," he remembers. "And it was obvious that he was in a lot of pain and needed immediate medical care. When I saw it I was hyperventilating." Walker took McDonald to South Miami Hospital, but not before meeting up with a photographer who documented McDonald's injuries. The blister on top of McDonald's foot ruptured in the emergency room.

After two days of treatment at South Miami Hospital, Walker arranged for McDonald to be checked into Baptist Hospital, into the care of a burn specialist who treated and observed McDonald for Jim Walker - Cruise Law - Maritime Lawyer  about a week before performing skin graft surgery on the badly burned foot.

In the meantime, Walker had informed Royal Caribbean that McDonald was being treated in Miami. This was, apparently, not to the company's liking. On June 4, Royal Caribbean's crew medical manager, David Blackwell, fired off a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of the Department of Homeland Security) that put a decidedly unsympathetic spin on McDonald's decision to get his health care in the U.S. The letter stated, in part, that "upon his layover in Miami, (McDonald) was intercepted by an attorney, James Walker, and taken to South Miami Hospital." The letter also characterized McDonald's admission to Baptist Hospital and his skin graft surgery as "a move on the part of the attorney to keep the crewmember in Miami."

McDonald stayed in the hospital through July, receiving physical therapy for his leg and foot. The doctor prescribed a custom-fitted pressure sleeve for the newly grafted skin. Royal Caribbean had been talking to Walker about McDonald's INS requirements, asking that he present himself to an INS official so that he could ask to stay in the U.S. throughout the course of his medical rehabilitation. At this point, Walker was unaware of Blackwell's e-mail to INS, and while he was wary of Royal Caribbean's intent, he knew McDonald had to comply with the law and show up for the hearing. The cruise line arranged for transportation to an INS office in Miami. McDonald thought he'd be checking into a hotel somewhere in Miami after his INS appointment.

Instead, INS officials handcuffed McDonald and slapped shackles on his ankles. "I told the guy that it is paining me on my foot and I now have a skin graft and my foot is not cured, and he told me I must take my time and walk slowly," McDonald recalled in a deposition.

McDonald confesses that up to this point he still clung to the hope that he could go back to work on Legend of the Seas for Royal Caribbean. McDonald wasn't happy about missing work. He still owed money to an "agent," basically a cruise line recruiter, who charged McDonald $1500 for his job on Legend of the Seas. "I really just want to get my leg fixed, get back to work," says McDonald. He says he was frightened and confused by the immigration officials, and didn't know what he was signing when he signed a piece of paper admitting he was in the U.S. illegally, and that returning home would not put him in harm's way.

McDonald again sought advice from his mother.

Pearlie Hector called everyone she could, including St. Vincent's diplomatic representatives in Washington. After five days her son was released from jail. "I tried everything I could to get him out of there, but they wouldn't even let me leave his leg sleeve for the prison doctor," Walker says. "It was his mom who got him out." McDonald was released temporarily, and placed in a boarding house for foreign cruise workers. He continued medical treatment until his foot healed. Even with the skin graft, there is some scarring and discoloration, and he says it's a little stiff. "But I think it would be very much worse if I don't have the surgery," McDonald says.

After the cruise line refused to pay for much of his medical treatment, McDonald sued Royal Caribbean and won an undisclosed amount. "I'm not rich," he says, smiling. "But I'm okay."

The papers he signed prevented him from staying in the U.S. legally -- and from having a seaman's visa, which would enable him to go back to work for another cruise line. Meanwhile, though, McDonald has become engaged to be married to a Haitian woman who resides in the U.S. and has applied for citizenship. McDonald is in the States illegally, working with an immigration Cruise Ship Medical Care - Crew Member lawyer to regain his legal status. "It doesn't look good because of the paper I signed," he says.

Cruise ships, with crew from around the world, are often registered outside the U.S., allowing South Florida-based companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International to skirt some U.S. labor laws (Legend of the Seas, for example, is registered in Liberia). The jurisdictional jumble -- foreign nationals working on ships registered abroad and often operating in international waters -- creates a legal gray area that can work to the detriment of employees.

There are few industry watchdogs; this is no surprise given the disparate ethnic groups that work on cruise liners, the transient nature of employment (contracts for a single cruise are not uncommon), and the constant movement of the ships themselves. But those who do keep an eye on corporations such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean say that employees, especially foreign-born employees, are being funneled to cheap doctors in the Caribbean who provide sometimes inadequate care for cut-rate prices.

"We hear about it all the time," says Scott Brady, an inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation in Cape Canaveral. "A lot of people don't want to complain, because they want to keep their jobs. This line of work is the only hope for some of the poorer people from the Caribbean and from Eastern Europe, so they want to stay on with whatever company they're with. But you hear the horror stories." ITF doesn't keep any statistical data on health care for cruise line employees -- in fact, an exhaustive search conducted by New Times couldn't turn up a single advocacy group or agency that keeps comprehensive information on the subject.

"I can't prove anything, industry-wide, except that the cases keep coming in, and I see, one by one, instances where these companies are overlooking an obligation to provide quality medical care in order to save money," says Brett Rivkind, an attorney with the Miami firm Rivkind, Pedraza and Margulies. "We think it's cost-saving in terms of treatment, and also to avoid workers pursuing claims here in the U.S. They try to cover that up by saying "We're sending them to their hometown,' as if there's sentimental value that counts for something."

Carnival Cruise - Crew Member Medical Care Carnival settled such a case with Rivkind client Francisco Romero in August. "We had a case where a Carnival worker needed cataract surgery. He was using a Miami ophthalmologist, and the cruise line said, "No, no, we want to send him home to Honduras,'" Rivkind recounts. "The ophthalmologist in Honduras had just had a baby, and her husband was studying to be an ophthalmologist, so she just let him do the surgery." Fifty-year-old Romero, a long-time Carnival employee, lost his eye in 2000, and filed suit in June 2001. Carnival fought the suit for more than two years. "It's not enough they let this happen, when they could easily have gotten him a good surgeon in the U.S., but then they fought us tooth and nail when he tried to get compensation," Rivkind says. The settlement included a nondisclosure clause, so he can't reveal the amount Carnival paid Romero.

"These companies are making decisions regarding crew members' medical conditions on a legal basis and a financial basis, rather than a medical basis," Rivkind avers.

U.S. immigration policy makes it easier to send foreign-born crew members to second-rate doctors in Third World countries, according to Rivkind and others. Foreign-born crew members need medical visas to receive treatment on U.S. soil. Medical visas are usually good for 30 days, and if a crew member needs an extension, the employer must produce documented proof of the need for further treatment. In some cases, Homeland Security requires that the crew member be produced in person. This arrangement can work out to the employers' advantage if the crew member is fighting to receive medical treatment in the U.S. "Look, it's impossible to prove collusion," says Rivkind. "But I've had calls from these companies saying, "Yeah, sure, we'll get him the treatment he needs, but we have to produce him for an immigration hearing first, so he can stay in the country. It won't be a problem.' Next thing I know, the guy's being shipped home where he's likely to get god-only-knows what kind of care."

Royal Caribbean officials deny taking advantage of crew members. Blackwell, the crew medical manager, says that Royal Caribbean employs about 36,000 people, and takes good care of the 400 or so on medical leave around the world at any given time. But, he says, the company has to follow immigration rules. In the U.S., medical parole for foreign-born crew members is difficult to arrange since September 11, 2001 (Department of Homeland Security officials did not return phone calls asking about interaction with cruise lines).

"Immediately after 9/11 it was very difficult (to get medical parole for injured crew members) because of security," Blackwell says. "Then things kind of eased up a little. Recently, it's gotten more difficult again."

Blackwell says that medical parole in the U.S. is determined by immigration officials based on a doctor's evaluation. He also says the company can be fined up to $50,000 for violating immigration laws. He refused to comment on specific cases, but when pressed by New Times about his e-mail alerting INS that Doran McDonald had been "intercepted by an attorney" at Miami International Airport, Blackwell offered this hypothetical situation: "Our obligation as a company is, if a crew Brett Rivkind - Maritime Lawyermember is in transit and in the process they arrive in Miami to change planes and they do not make the flight, we have an obligation as a company to let INS know that a crew member has jumped ship, essentially."

Rivkind admits that, post-9/11, more stringent adherence to U.S. immigration laws makes it harder for cruise lines to keep injured crew members for treatment in the U.S. "But I think they're using that, as well. They used to have an ability to keep these guys on medical parole if they wanted to. With immigration changes, I believe it is more difficult, but I think the cruise lines also take advantage of that."

While Blackwell was willing to speak to New Times -- though not about any specific cases -- weeks of back-and-forth with South Florida's other cruise line giant, Carnival Cruise Lines, resulted in an anemic e-mail response. Spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz wrote that no information on the number of crew members the company employs was available, nor was there any available information on the number of crew members receiving medical treatment, in the U.S. or elsewhere.

ITF's Brady says that the cruise industry is notorious for pressuring employees to avoid making waves, even when their health is at stake. "I can't prove it because all I get is word of mouth," he says. "Every once in a while someone gets a lawyer, but they always include nondisclosure agreements in their settlements. And if word gets back to a cruise line that an employee is speaking with a union representative about these kinds of issues, they'd be fired from their jobs and probably blacklisted."

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of medical malfeasance by cruise lines. Brady has stories, and Walker and Rivkind each have had several clients with similar tales of woe. One of them, 28-year-old Azumi Sagara, is actually a U.S. citizen who says Royal Caribbean employees tried to delay her access to an emergency room until the ship she was on traveled to Nassau, and then refused to pay for her medical care. Sagara was an ice skater on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. As the ship lumbered toward Port Canaveralon March 27, Sagara found herself doubled over in pain. "Something in my abdomen really hurt -- I didn't know what it was, but I knew I needed to see a doctor." She was told she was probably pregnant. When a quick test proved otherwise, the ship's medic said she probably had an infection. "The doctor gave me some pills and told me to come back in a week," Sagara says.

By 9:00 p.m. the pain was so severe, she knew she'd have to go to the emergency room when the ship docked in Port Canaveral the next day. That night she called a nurse, asking for a referral from the doctor to seek medical treatment in Port Canaveral the next day. "She said, 'I can't call the doctor for that, you'll have to wait until tomorrow.'"

Sagara knew that would likely mean she couldn't get treatment in the U.S. Crew members only had two opportunities to get off the ship in Port Canaveral: before the passengers started leaving at 7:30 a.m., and after all passengers had disembarked, at noon. Sagara knew that a trip to the doctor would mean she'd have to wait until noon to get off the ship, and she was in too much pain to do that. "And at that point, I thought maybe I could get back onboard that day, but we had to be back by 3:45 p.m., so waiting until noon would pretty much put that out of reach," Sagara says. She decided to get off the ship and to the emergency room by any means necessary. "The ship's security officer wouldn't let me off," she says. "I said, 'I'm in a lot of pain, I need to go to the ER.' While I was signing off, he told me to wait until we got to Nassau." Eventually, she made a break for it. "I ran past the security officer and got to the immigration guy. The security officer was saying,'She's not cleared, she's not cleared.' I said, "I need medical attention.' The immigration guy said, 'I can't stop you from going to your own country.'"

Doctors in the ER told Sagara she had pelvic inflammatory disease, and ruptured ovarian cysts with some internal bleeding. "They said I had to see a specialist immediately," she says. Sagara flew home to California, received a week's worth of medical care, and returned to the Mariner on April 4 after missing one week of work. She worked for Royal Caribbean for the duration of her contract, until May 2.

Calin Ioan, a Romanian citizen, formerly a bartender aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas and also a client of Walker's, is lucky to be alive. Walker filed suit on Ioan's behalf after the 28-year-old repeatedly went to the ship's doctor with complaints of ear pain, starting in the summer of 2002. According to Walker, Ioan was given ibuprofen and sent back to work. The Enchantment docked at Port Everglades every weekend, but Ioan claims that the ship's doctor would only allow him to see a physician in St. Thomas in September 2002. That doctor gave Ioan a nasal spray and some ear drops.

Eventually, the doctor in St. Thomas suspected something more was wrong with Ioan and, in January 2003, recommended a CT scan and biopsy. The ship's doctor wrote an e-mail to David Blackwell and Ioan's medical case manager, Bill Sera, summing up the St. Thomas doctor's suspicions. The doctor also suggested that they wait until Ioan's contract ended on January 20 and arrange for him to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist once he returned to Romania. The shipboard physician, Bernhard Van Staden, ends his e-mail with overdue compassion: "I would like this to be sorted out, as he has been going with his problem for quite some time."

By the time Romanian doctors detected the tumor in Ioan's throat (on February 2, 2003), it had reached Stage IV -- the final stage of cancerous growth -- and had spread too far to be removed surgically. Radiation and chemotherapy have beaten the cancer into remission, but they also rendered Ioan unable to work. He has been living with his mother since his return. His medical bills mounted, and he says that Royal Caribbean will only pay for some of his treatment costs. He retained Walker, and is suing for his living bills and all medical expenses from the time of his arrival in Romania. Royal Caribbean officials wouldn't comment on his case."

 

Article credit:  Forrest Norman, Miami New Times

Photo credit:  Jonathon Postal

Diagram credit:  CruiseBruise.com

 

Have a comment?  Please leave one below. 

 

Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Today, Royal Caribbean's newest mega-ship, the Allure of the Seas, sails from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on its first charter with 5,400 gay and lesbian passengers.  The cruise is sponsored by Atlantis Events which is billing the event as the "world's largest gay cruise."

The Allure will port in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten during the one week cruise.  This is the  20th anniversary for the Atlantis travel company which specializes in all-gay vacations.

Atlantis Gay Cruise - Allure of the Seas The Atlantis cruises have not been without controversy.  One year ago, a 37 year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas died during an Atlantis sponsored cruise.

In October 2009, we reported on the death of another passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise.  Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD"), died on the Mariner of the Seas. There is speculation that Mr. Yu, also a young man of  only 46 years, may have died of a drug overdose during the cruise.  After this ill fated cruise, passengers contacted our office complaining about the inexperience and confusion of the Royal Caribbean medical staff in responding to Mr. Yu's medical emergency.

Commenters on the gay community blogs Queerty and JoeMyGod bickered about the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events. 

Cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship's medical facilities. 

Is the Allure of the Seas, the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, equipped to handle medical emergencies which occur during Atlantis parties?  Does Atlantis discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

January 11, 2011 Update:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas - plus a half dozen drug overdoses.

Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Passenger From Holland America Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard evacuated a 46 year old passenger from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico following a fall on Saturday.

Passenger Andrew Spicer was aboard Holland America Line's Ryndam cruise ship when he was reportedly injured.  The cruise  was roughly 120 miles southwest of St. Petersburg when the Coast Guard helicopter arrived around 8:00 p.m.  Mr. Spicer was taken to Tampa General hospital.

On Friday, a  Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew medevaced a 16 month old  girl and her mother off the Norwegian Gem cruise ship approximately 245 miles south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina.  The infant was suffering from upper respiratory tract infection and respiratory distress.

Our U.S. Coast Guard serves an important function of transporting sick and injured passengers to emergency medical facilities ashore.  Earlier in the week we discussed the medical and legal implications of cruise medevacs in U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Sick Teenager from NCL's Jewel.

Where you on any of these cruises?  Do you have photos or video to share?  Please leave a comment  .  .  .

U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Sick Teenager from NCL's Jewel

The United States Coast Guard crews medevaced an ill thirteen year old from the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Jewel cruise ship near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on Saturday. 

The boy had symptoms of acute appendicitis.  The Coast Guard lifted the boy and his mother from the deck of the Jewel and flew them to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

This is the type of story which we have reported on frequently.  Medical rescues like this are a regular occurrence when there is a medical emergency and the cruise ships are within the range of Coast Guard helicopters.  As I have said many times, a cruise ship is one of the last places on earth you want to be if you have a serious medical issue. 

One of the most infamous involving appendicitis aboard a cruise ship is Carnival v. Carlyle.  A family from Michigan sailed on Carnival's Ecstasy when 14 year old Elizabeth felt ill with abdominal pain.  The family took their daughter to the ship infirmary.  The  foreign trained doctor repeatedly told the family that the child had only the flu.  When the family returned home, a qualified doctor diagnosed a ruptured appendix and infection, but due to the delayed diagnosis and treatment the young girl was rendered sterile.

Carnival defended the case by claiming that it was not responsible for the malpractice of "independent contractors."  The cruise line and the cruise industry fought the case for a decade and finally won before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The bottom line?  The family went on a family cruise vacation and their daughter returned home sterile due to the gross negligence of the Carnival ship doctor.  After ten years of litigation, the young girl received nothing.    

So when I see a helicopters picking up a sick kid off of a cruise ship, I know that one parent's prayers have been answered.  They will not have to suffer like the Carlyle family from Michigan.

So, thanks to the the U.S. Coast Guard!

The medevac was filmed by a passenger, Allan, aboard the Jewel:

    

 

Credit:   CNN iReport

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Another Passenger From Holland America Cruise Ship

Last night, the U.S. Coast Guard performed a medical evacuation of a 75-year-old passenger who became sick while cruising on the Holland America cruise ship, Oosterdam, about 180 miles southwest of San Diego.

A HC-130 Hercules aircraft from the Coast Guard station in Sacramento located the HAL ship ship.  A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter dispatched from the Coast Guard's San Diego station then medevaced the passenger to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

The medevac came just 2 days after the Coast Guard assisted the disabled cruise ship Carnival Splendor into San Diego.

In October, the Coast Guard conducted essentially an identical rescue.   A 74-year-old passenger with pancreatis was rescued from HAL's Oosterdam 36 miles from San Diego and sent via helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital. 

The U.S. Coast Guard spends millions of dollars a year assisting passengers who are sick or injured on foreign flagged cruise ships.

Coast Guard Medevac - Cruise Ship - Medical Rescue

Photo credit:

U.S. Coast Guard via Cruise Critic member Copper10-8 (depicting medevac from HAL Noordam)

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Medical Care - A 19th Century Hospital?

Today we received emails commenting on the bad medical treatment provided on board Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the recent $2,900,000 verdict against the cruise line for its negligent medical treatment rendered to an injured crew member from Nicaragua.  Here are the emails:

On the $2,900,000 verdict we reported on last week:  "Having worked for Royal Caribbean I totally believe this is justified!  Well done Jury!"

Death Wish?:  "I too could write a book about the atrocities of medical care onboard during my 4 Royal Caribbean - Medical Care - Medical Treatment - Cruise Ship contracts.  I suffered an injury and was sent to see a doctor in Curacao, and I'm an American citizen!  When I said that I wanted to see a doctor on port day in Miami I was told that they could not arrange it (we were still 4 days away from Miami) and I would have to wait until the following port day, 11 days later if I did not want to see the doctor in Cuaracao." 

19th Century Hospital:   "While working on ships we had 1 doctor terminated for downloading porn onto his work computer.  He stated he was doing "medical research."  Then there was the cruise where 3 people died, 1 from a stroke and 2 from heart attacks.  Both doctors were terminated at the end of that cruise.  Why?  Because apparently the nurses had to talk them through CPR!  Absolutely disgusting.  I've told family members and friends that if they ever get hurt or injured on a cruise ship the last place they want to go is to the ship's infirmary.  The "medicine" dished out is reminiscent of early 19th century hospitals, where one only went if he or she had a death wish."

Fend For Yourself:  "I am an American citizen who worked for Royal Caribbean.  I left the ship in the last quarter of my last contract with an injury. It was even tough for me to get RCCL to cover decent medical treatment for me as an American citizen.  I cannot even imagine what it is like for crew members who are sent back to their countries of origin.  Forget about any sort of living compensation while shoreside for treatment.  I was able to live with my parents, but if I hadn't had that option I would have had quite a bit of difficulty.  It is shameful the way they sign crew members off of ships to fend for themselves."   

 

We have written articles about Royal Caribbean's abuse of its crew members:

Cruise Ship Medicare Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft 

Titanic Dreams - Royal Caribbean Wins Worst Cruise Lines in the World Award

 

Have you received medical treatment on a Royal Caribbean?  What was your experience?

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Coast Guard Rescues Sick Passenger From Carnival's Spirit Cruise Ship

Cruise Law News is a big fan of the United States Coast Guard which came to the rescue of a 79-year-old passenger aboard the Carnival cruise ship Spirit yesterday. 

According to 10News.com, the Carnival cruise ship was about 570 miles south of San Diego when the vessel notified the USCG that a passenger was experiencing health problems.  At around 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, a 41-foot-long Coast Guard utility boat met the cruise ship at the entrance to San Carnival Spirit Cruise Ship - Passenger MedevacDiego Bay.  The sick passenger and a member of the cruise ship's medical staff were taken by the Coast Guard to the San Diego Harbor Police dock. The patient was then taken by ambulance to Scripps Mercy Hospital.  The nature of the passenger's medical problem and her current condition were not discussed. 

For other articles on Coast Guard medevacs, consider reading:

U.S. Coast Guard Medivacs Passenger From HAL Cruise Ship

Helicopter Medevacs Passenger from Princess Cruise Ship

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Cruise Passengers

 

Photo credit  U.S. Coast Guard via 10News.com

Helicopter Medevacs Passenger from Princess Cruise Ship

Heart attacks on cruise ships are one of the leading causes of passenger deaths.  The U.S. and the Canadian Coast Guards do a remarkable job rescuing passengers from cruise ships, far distances from the mainland.

The video below show the rescue by the Canadian Coast Guard of a 78 year old passenger who suffered a heart attack and was in critical conditions. The cruise ship, the Sea Princess, was 100 miles from Vancouver Island.   

  

  

 

Credit:           /A\ News Vancouver Island