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The view: Enroute to NIH, approaching Baltimore

The pilot: Ruffin Benton, MD

The airplane: Cirrus SR20

The mission: Asheville, NC, to Baltimore, MD, for NIH cancer treatment.

The memory: Beautiful little girl, mom, and dad.

“The airspeed of faith underlies everything.
Lives are designed
to fly.”

– “Designed To Fly” by Ellen Waterston

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Ruffin Benton
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9 replies
  1. Bill Rose
    Bill Rose says:

    As a father and pilot, the photo of this sweet little face – and what she must face – brought tears to my eyes. I know it’s cliche but no child should have to fight cancer at such a young age. She and her parents – along with Dr. Benton – are in my prayers.

  2. Michael Folks
    Michael Folks says:

    Cancer in it’s many forms are very cruel, I lost my wife of 27 years to aggressive lung cancer in 2017,she was a smoker from High School quitting a number of years ago,we thought the aches and pains were from her weight but upon the diagnosis of “It’s cancer” she first had radiation and later Chemotherapy, but both were too little ,too late,the twist of fate was being told on our 26th wedding anniversary date of August 26th 2016,with her passing 13 months later…..

  3. Gary Sackman
    Gary Sackman says:

    Thanks Doc,

    I was thinking when I get my pilots license, what, besides flying for flying’s sake, would I like to do with it. Exactly you what did in this wonderful story. Using an airplane to assist the kids and others who need medical treatment and cannot afford to travel the long distances required. I live in Northern Michigan and for total care and most surgical procedures we have to go to Wisconsin. Having lived in a city with 3 major hospitals/trauma centers, with helicopters, this has been a rude awakening. Thanks for taking your standard of care to a new level.


  4. J Florez
    J Florez says:

    As a physician myself I’m not sure about this photo. She looks underage, is asleep (ergo no advance consent), and not sure even after the fact can have full insight to give consent to be put up on the internet for all to see and know of her battles with cancer, which for some is a very private matter. I know your intentions are good, but she has friends at school and family, and if, hopefully when, she survives she may not want everybody to know about her previous diagnoses in all forms for eternity.

    I would advise removing this photo and post from Air Facts. Some social media is one thing where it can be shared with close friends, but this is the world-wide internet.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      We checked with the pilot/photographer on this to be sure. He said, “I obtained appropriate permission from parents before article was submitted. I was Angel Flight pilot, not the little girl’s physician.”

      • J Florez
        J Florez says:

        That is reasonable. At a minimum, John, I would file the names of the parents who gave consent, so if the girl ever contacts you (or parents for that matter) changing their mind or requesting removal you can rapidly comply.

        In future I’d advise to just post “medical flight” and leave out the diagnosis and details.

        For instance if the person was flying to a hospital that specialized in infectious disease or HIV it would be strongly inappropriate, and similarly many cancers can be sensitive topics.

        Adults can give informed consent, but sick kids should be quite protected.

  5. Joe2
    Joe2 says:

    @J Florez If an MD takes a photo with parents present and receives written consent, I don’t think that is a HIPPA violation…

    • J Florez
      J Florez says:

      I am not particularly concerned with the legal aspects; it is not that likely to be violating laws, but, as all of us know in aviation, legal does not mean safe or a good idea.

      I feel it is a not a particularly nice thing to do to a kid who can not consent, for all of us to go “awww”. Yes their parents can agree, but now the kid’s diagnosis is shared for the world, and when they survive and go off their parent’s health care plan and need to apply for their own insurance on an open market… or are simply teased at school… well, posting on the internet is generally permanent.


      It is HIPAA BTW. :)

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