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Cruise ships can now be held liable for medical malpractice

You've saved for months to take your dream cruise. You leave a port in Texas and the first couple of days on-board is wonderful. But then the unexpected happens and you wake up one morning feeling ill and wonder if you are seasick or over-imbibed the night before. But hours later there is no improvement. In fact, you feel even worse.

Your immediate reaction is to go to the medical unit on the ship. After all, that is your only choice while you are at sea. You expect to be treated effectively for whatever illness the medical staff diagnoses. You are given medication and told to return to your cabin until you feel better. But you don't feel better. You keep feeling worse. In fact, your condition is so bad that the cruise company airlifts you to the closest hospital on land.

Once the medical staff at the hospital evaluates you, they inform you that you were misdiagnosed on the ship and the delay in treating you appropriately will require removing your spleen. The surgery proceeds and you then face weeks of recovery while losing wages from your job and precious time with your family.

So, who is at fault for your pain and suffering? Surprisingly, until very recently, the medical staff on cruise ships could not be held liable for medical malpractice. A 1998 court ruling exempted cruise ship companies from liability for treating passengers onboard the ship. But a recent case reversed that stance, recognizing, among other things, that the medical care and technology on ships has improved to the point that medical personnel onboard should be able to effectively treat those who fall ill on the cruise.

The case that reversed the legal landscape involved a passenger who fell and hit his head while onboard. The medical staff on the ship did not attend to him immediately, and he was airlifted to a hospital the next day. He died from his injuries a week later and his family was allowed to sue for their loss.

If your dream cruise turns into a nightmare due to lack of proper medical care, you now have options. Consider a visit to an attorney who handles medical malpractice cases and will understand the liability that now applies to cruise ships. You deserve compensation for the negligence of any medical staff, on land or at sea.  

Source: Source: U.S. News, "Ruling opens door for medical malpractice lawsuits over health care aboard cruise ships," Curt Anderson, Dec. 23, 2014

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