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No one likes to get sick on vacation. In addition to the physical strain it can create, people in Massachusetts who travel elsewhere may find it difficult to find appropriate medical care. Physicians everywhere should be held to the same standard of care to prevent a doctor error or other mistake. The treatment provided by cruise line companies had been able to avoid that standard, but a federal appeals court ruling could change that.

In 2001, an 82-year-old passenger fell and hit his head while on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. A nurse aboard the ship who presented herself as a cruise line employee told the man to get some rest, not realizing that the man had incurred a brain injury. The man died just a few days later.

In order to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits, cruise companies used to employ the Barbetta ruling, which stated that medical staff aboard a ship are private contractors and therefore not under the cruise line’s control. However, according to the federal appeals court, the cruise line promoted having a medical unit on board, and the nurse and doctor wore the uniforms of the company. Therefore, the court ruled that the Barbetta defense is outdated.

The ruling could pave the way for passengers to file lawsuits in the event that they receive substandard care while on a cruise. No matter where a patient is treated, it is important to ensure that the care is adequate and appropriate. People who believe they have been victims of medical negligence should consult with an attorney.

Source: 10 News, “Ruling may open the door to more medical malpractice suits over health care on cruise ships,” Dec. 23, 2014