Is there a lawyer on board?
Rachel Seddon looks at good Samaritan acts and how your duty of care should supersede any fear of litigation
If someone collapses in the street in front of you, clearly requiring urgent medical attention, is your first instinct to help? Or do you – like an increasing number of doctors – feel a moment’s hesitation, anxious that if you make a mistake, you could be sued for negligence?1 Doctors should never shy away from acting as a good Samaritan in a situation like this. However, with patients quicker than ever to sue, the threat of legal action is enough to make some doctors hesitate, scared to step up as a good Samaritan in case their best efforts to help go wrong.
A good Samaritan act is one in which medical assistance is given, free of charge, in a medical emergency where you are not on duty. In Bermuda, the Volunteer Liability Act (2000) states that: “Where, in respect of a person who is ill, injured or unconscious as a result of an accident or other emergency, a volunteer renders assistance […], the volunteer is not liable for damages for injuries to, or the death of that person […] unless it is established that the injuries were caused by gross negligence.” This means if you are called upon to act as a good Samaritan whilst in Bermuda, so long as you do your best to help and your actions are not deemed to be grossly negligent, you cannot be sued if something goes wrong.