Could You Be Sued for Good Samaritan Care?

Physician's Money Digest, November 2007, Volume 14, Issue 11

With the ever-present lawsuit threat, physicians have become reluctant to offer emergency care in public. Even without emergency equipment, people expect physicians to administer care on site, but cautious physicians do not want to become liable for their actions' failure to produce a positive outcome. However, in most cases, there are laws in place that protect emergency do-gooders. Outside your practice or hospital, Good Samaritan laws shield physicians from being sued for deeds or negligence. An article from The Physician's Personal Advisory explains the law's basic requirements. Foremost is that treatment must be voluntary. If the treatment is in connection with their employment or with the expectation of compensation, Good Samaritan laws do not apply. A doctor who performs CPR on a flight may be upgraded to first class after the care as a form of thanks, but seating a physician there in anticipation of an emergency constitutes a commission. The patient must also consent. If a patient is unconscious or unable to respond, consent is implied. In the case of children, as usual, parents or guardians must consent to treatment. The third qualification under Good Samaritan laws is that actions must be in a good faith effort to assist. In the case of emergency care, good intentions mean everything. Each state law varies, so be sure to check, since some states can actually fine physicians who do not assist during an emergency.