Flying dangerously

Published: Thursday 15 February 2001

around 800 Australians and some New Zealanders have claimed compensation for deaths and injuries resulting from the so-called airline 'economy-class syndrome.' The syndrome is linked to a disorder known as deep vein thrombosis (dvt). It results in blood clots that eventually lodge in a passenger's vital organs, causing death or injury.

The claimants' law firm, Slater Gordon, says that all airlines flying to and from Australia will have to pay compensation, which in many cases may amount to tens of thousands of dollars each. Paul Henderson of Slater Gordon believes the amount of compensation could be high for even small injuries, because in many cases people had to be hospitalised for as long as eight days and could not work for six months. The claimants decided to take such an action following the death of Thomas Lamb, who flew from London on a Singapore Airlines flight to Melbourne. On arrival in Melbourne, he complained of breathing difficulties and was taken to hospital, where he lapsed into a coma and later died from dvt.

There is no conclusive evidence linking air travel to dvt, but a study by John Scurr, a vascular surgeon from Middlesex hospital, London, is believed to show a connection between the two. According to reports, as many as 30,000 people die each year as a result of dvt.

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