Did Carnival Properly Handle a Recent Cruise Ship Illness and Med Evac?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Carnival passenger med evacIt’s no secret that cruise lines often fail to abide by maritime laws when it comes to maintaining and upholding passenger safety. Throughout the years, numerous cruise ship accidents have been reported – many of which were the result of the cruise operator’s failure to preserve shipboard safety. While some accidents may not be significant in the sense that they do not result in any injuries, others have led to passengers (and crew members) getting seriously hurt.

Aside from accidents, there are times when a passenger needs immediate medical assistance following an unexpected cruise ship illness. Though cruise operators may not necessarily be responsible for the onset of a medical emergency, they are responsible for maintaining the conditions of their onboard facilities and for hiring physicians that are both experienced and ethical in their practice. Unfortunately, as our cruise ship lawyers have recounted in the past, onboard medical quarters and cruise ship doctors tend to be subpar, to say the least.

Sadly, even the most luxurious and innovative of cruise ships tend to lack in the medical department. The average cruise ship’s medical quarters are designed to handle minor injuries and illnesses, but when someone presents a serious medical emergency, cruise ship med quarters are ill-equipped to provide the life-saving treatments that may be needed.

Though some ships these days boast superior technological advancements when it comes to entertainment, like the robotic bartenders that can be found on Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, the same can’t be said about advanced medical technology. Passengers shouldn’t expect to find any high-tech surgical equipment or MRIs on a vessel. In fact, there are times when the “doctor” leading the ship’s medical facility isn’t even certified to practice medicine!

Because of the lack of superior medical services aboard most cruise ships, many passengers who experience a serious emergency may not survive. Once a ship’s crew determines that a passenger’s condition is severe and cannot be successfully treated on board, the crew must contact the Coast Guard as soon as possible to arrange for a medical evacuation. Crew members have to act quickly, as every second that goes by can cause irreparable damage to the victim or may even lead to their death.

Hopefully, crew members were quick to act this weekend when a passenger presented with a serious medical condition.

On Saturday, a 24-year-old Carnival Cruise passenger was evacuated after suffering a medical emergency. The victim, whose name wasn’t immediately disclosed by authorities, experienced what appeared to be signs of appendicitis at around 10 AM while aboard the Carnival Imagination.

The vessel was roughly 50 miles southwest of Point Loma, a seaside community in San Diego, when crew members contacted the Coast Guard. According to news reports, Sector San Diego’s flight surgeon recommended that the passenger be medically evacuated and transported to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment. At this point, a Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched to the ship and hoisted the woman aboard. The victim was met by EMS crews and taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital at around 12:30 PM. No further information was provided regarding her current condition.

Appendicitis is a serious medical condition that can prove fatal if it is not immediately and successfully treated. Because the appendix can rupture, anyone who exhibits symptoms of appendicitis will usually undergo emergency surgery to remove the organ.

Authorities haven’t specified exactly how much time elapsed between the moment that the victim first sought medical assistance and the point at which she was medically evacuated. We know it took about 2.5 hours for her to reach land after being evacuated, however, we don’t know how long it took the ship’s crew to make the initial call to the Coast Guard. Let’s hope Carnival’s crew acted quickly so the victim could to obtain the treatment she needed to make a full recovery.