I was reading through a discussion on deaths in flight when I came across a very interesting point someone made.
Now, I don’t exactly know why I decided to go down this morbid rabbit hole, but it’s quite fascinating.
There are only a few people in history who have actually died in flight.
How is that possible?
It’s possible because death is a legal status. And it’s rare that someone can declare a person “dead” onboard a flight.
There is no one authorized to declare a person dead aboard most civil aircraft. Even when there’s a doctor on board, US flag carriers have other medical professionals on call who are experts at aviation medicine whose judgments override on-scene medical personnel. They don’t allow for declarations of death in the air, even though they are sometimes thousands of miles away, conferring via radio-phone link.
Basically, the post is saying that without anyone on board with authority to declare someone dead, technically the person isn’t considered dead until on the ground.
Throughout the discussion, it was revealed that recent changes have been enacted that are more permissive when it comes to declaring someone dead. In some situations, an ordinary physician may be able to.
Of course, you can biologically die in flight, so my title is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I appreciated one comment which read, “What’s amazing is that from the time that modern humans appeared on the planet, it took 200,000 years before one of them died, simply because there were no qualified doctors or lawyers around to declare them dead.”
I also learned another fascinating tidbit–a lay person can declare someone dead if the head is detached from the body. I guess they figure there’s no going back at that point.