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American Airline Passenger Dies

44-year-old woman dies after receiving (apparently) empty oxygen tanks

While on a flight from Haiti to New York on Friday, Carine Desir complained of difficulty breathing and asked flight attendants for oxygen. Relatives say she was initially denied, but as she struggled to breathe surrounding passengers grew more agitated.

The flight attendant apparently spoke with the pilot via phone and returned with 2 different tanks, but both were empty.

Life Saving OxygenLife Saving OxygenAntonio Oliver, Desir's cousin who was traveling with her, claims that a defibrillator also seemed to malfunction. Oliver asked the pilot to "land right away so I can get her to a hospital," and the pilot agreed to divert the plane to Miami - 45 minutes away.

During that time Desir collapsed and died. The flight continued to JFK airport without stopping in Miami.

A spokesperson for American Airlines refused comment on charges that the tanks were empty, but I'm sure an investigation will uncover the truth. Medical examiner, Ellen Borakove, said Desir had heart disease and died of natural causes.

After Desir died, her body was placed in first class where a sheet was laid over her for the duration of the flight.

There's so much about this story that bothers me. Why were the tanks empty? Why did the flight attendant refuse them initially? What about the defibrillator? There were 2 doctors and nurse onboard - how do they feel about how the situation was handled?

When Desire died, where the first class passengers moved?

We'll keep you updated as more info is released. For more information right now, visit CNN or AP News.

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Comments

Perhaps the passenger was ill and perhpas too ill to fly. However, in the recurrent training of flight attendants it is manadatory for them to check the safety equipment onboard. That the AED failed to restore a sinus rhythm should have been impetus enough to redirect the flight to the closest airport. Placing a body in an aisle in first class is a clear violation of FAA protocol as in the even there were a subsequent emergency passengers wouldn't be able to access the fore doors. Unfortunately, flight attendants are not medical personnel, but just hearing that the woman was diabetic and being dismissive is indicative of the single mindedness that is epedemic in an apothetic workforce. The flight attendant should have assessed the situation and then immediately administered care. Merely asking questions could have increased her chances of administering the correct care. I am keenly aware that the passenger's contract was to provide transport for her and her luggage from location A to location B-- and they are responsible for causing no harm-- however-- I do believe in this instance that the passenger could have been treated with dignity and concern. It is apparent that no heroic efforts were taken by the airline, the passengers stepped in to attempt to administer care with limited resources. It is an unfortunate death, but the circumstances in which it was handled were much more unfortunate. As a frequent flyer American in my opinion exemplifies apathetic treatment of passengers and its employees understandably are frustrated with the company--however-- taking it out on passengers is unwarranted. I choose other carriers when at all possible. I am sorry for the family's loss of their loved one-- and only hope that perhaps, American and it's fellow air carriers will look at how emergency protocols are administered and make necessary adjustments to treat passengers with dignity and respect if they are in sickness or in health.

As a physician, I can tell you that even if immediate oxygen were properly applied, it would have been unlikely to save this woman, who is an obese diabetic unlucky enough to have been trapped on a plane when her body started to give out. Put it this way: would the outcome have been any different if she were at home and had to call 911? No. She likely doesn't have oxygen at home, else she would have brought it with her, and there is almost no likelihood she has an automatic defibrillator at home. While the situation is unfortunate, the airline in no way is responsible for the death of this sick lady.

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