Wednesday, April 02, 2003

DVT: now, it's criminal

The UK Independent reports today that manslaughter charges are being considered against airlines over DVT. 'Detectives from South Wales, and Devon and Cornwall constabularies are investigating three complaints from the families of passengers who died after long-haul flights. Eleven more cases are expected to be lodged with the police shortly,' says the paper.

This is ludicrous. About 1 in 2000 people suffer from DVT in the UK each year. It is more common in older people than younger people. Research has not demonstrated any specific link between air travel and DVT. There is some evidence to suggest that immobility is a risk factor, but the relative increase in risk is likely to be very small. The exercise regimes and circulation socks that seem to be becoming all the rage are totally unnecessary.

What will we have as a result of this? At a minimum, our journeys will be less convenient. Will there be enforced exercising on aeroplanes to avoid suggestions of liability for airlines? Perhaps, there will even be enforced stopovers on long-haul flights. Imagine having to spend 25-hours on a plane and then being obliged to have a seated aerobics class, or having to break your journey when you wanted to fly direct.

Even worse, what happens if these cases proceed and company directors are convicted? On what basis could they really have done anything about these deaths when the cause of the DVT is still unknown and where there can be no balance between risk and convenience?

I suspect that the authorities know all of this, yet seem unable to say 'no' to bereaved families. I don't think they are doing those families, or wider society, any service by pursuing these cases.

Airlines may face charges over DVT deaths, Independent, 2 April 2003
Deep-vein thrombosis, UK Department of Health

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