Physician Immunity Needed for Reporting Medically Unfit Airmen to the Federal Aviation Administration

Published: Jan 27, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 30, 1983.

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The physical standards and examinations required of all civilian airmen will not identify all disqualifying medical conditions.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) generally discovers disqualifying physical conditions during the initial or periodic airmen medical evaluations. At all other times, the Federal Aviation Regulations place the responsibility for determining physical fitness on the airman, who is responsible for withdrawing from flying status while he has a known medical deficiency that would make him unable to meet FAA medical standards. Private physicians who encounter medically unfit airmen in their routine practice are an important source of medical fitness information, but do not always report such airmen for fear of civil suits for breaching their physician-patient relationship established by State law. A Federal statute requiring private physicians to report medically unfit airmen to FAA or granting immunity to physicians for providing such information might be subject to legal attack. Because FAA needs to have all pertinent medical information regarding airmen, it might wish to encourage states to enact legislation granting physicians immunity from civil responsibility for reporting medical data concerning airmen to the FAA.