Airline Decision on Obesity Ruling Concerns Canada's Doctors

    OTTAWA, Jan. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Medical Association is
disappointed that Canada's two major airlines have instituted a business
policy requiring doctors to provide a note to obese and disabled people. It
says this shows a disregard for the use of scarce medical resources.
    "The question of whether or not someone can fit into a specific seat on a
specific plane is not a medical decision," said CMA President Dr. Robert
Ouellet. He also noted that the airlines made their decision about requiring a
doctor's note without consulting the CMA and without recognizing that many
physicians are already inundated with third-party forms.
    The airlines' decision, announced Jan. 8, follows a January 2008 order
from the Canadian Transportation Agency to make free extra seating available
for disabled and obese travelers who require it. The Supreme Court of Canada
upheld that order in November, and airlines had until Jan. 10, 2009, to comply
by introducing a "one passenger, one fare" policy. The new policy applies to
passengers who require an attendant to travel with them because of a
disability - some form of paralysis, for example - and to obese or overweight
passengers who cannot fit in a single seat.
    Air Canada announced yesterday that these passengers will require "a
doctor's certificate of their disability or need for an attendant when
traveling, as well as medical approval for travel." WestJet, the country's
other major airline, announced a similar requirement and added: "All medical
forms submitted by a guest's physician will be reviewed by WestJet's medical
desk nurse. The nurse may contact the guest's physician for more information
prior to making a final decision to approve or decline a request."
    "In as much as the CMA supports the rights of these travelers, we feel
that airlines should not try and pass the buck to physicians over what is
essentially a business matter," concluded Dr. Ouellet. "The Canadian Medical
Association will be writing directly to Air Canada and WestJet asking that
they immediately revisit their requirements for doctor's certificates."

For further information:

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Media Relations Manager, (800)
663-7336, (613) 731-8610 ext. 1266

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