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Grounded for an Ethical Dilemma: Disequilibrium in a Commercial Airline Pilot

Kirschen, Matthew, P.; Friedlander, Joel, A.

doi: 10.1212/01.CON.0000421624.64148.5a
Ethical Perspectives

This article presents the case of a 41-year-old airline pilot with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo who requests that his diagnosis not be disclosed to his commercial airline employer or his aviation medical examiner because it may result in the suspension of medical certification. The legal and ethical requirements for physicians reporting impaired pilots are discussed as well as practical recommendations for handling such situations. The argument is made that a physician’s obligation to honor patient confidentiality should not take precedence over his or her duty to protect the safety and well-being of the airplane passengers and the general public. If the patient chooses not to self-report, a physician has an ethical obligation to report the patient’s medical condition to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Address correspondence to Dr Matthew P. Kirschen, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 34th and Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA, 19104,

Relationship Disclosure: Drs Kirschen and Friedlander report no disclosures.

Unlabeled Use of Products/Investigational Use Disclosure: Drs Kirschen and Friedlander report no disclosures.

© 2012 American Academy of Neurology
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