Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Doctors dismiss`economy class syndrome' fears

REUTERS , SYDNEY

Doctors from Australia and New Zealand dismissed the concept of "economy class syndrome" yesterday, but called for a major study to determine whether there was any link between air travel and blood clots.

The Australasian Society of Thrombosis & Haemostasis said the risk of fatal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during air travel had been vastly overstated, adding that blood clots could just as easily occur on long haul bus trips or drives.

"The degree of risk has been overstated, vastly overstated," society president Ross Baker said after attending a meeting of Australian airline officials, unions and medical specialists.

"The medical risk at best estimates is very low," Baker said.

Scientists at Griffith University's aviation medicine center, who also attended the Sydney DVT meeting, went further. "Economy class syndrome does not exist," said the center's Paul Bates.

Neither Qantas nor Ansett officials at the Sydney meeting attended the news conference and neither airline would comment. Baker refused to say whether the airlines had been asked to fund a study or whether they had made any commitment to one.

Eighteen airline passengers in Australia have died since 1992 from blood clots, an Australian newspaper said on Monday quoting coroner's reports.

Melbourne-based law firm Slater & Gordon has received details of almost 2,300 alleged DVT cases, including 116 possible deaths. It says some cases date back to the late 1980s but about half occurred in the past two years.

Global calls for safeguards against DVT arose last October following the death of 28-year-old Briton Emma Christoffersen, who collapsed in the arrival hall of London's Heathrow airport after returning from Australia following the Olympic Games.

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