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An example of a Good Samaritan act by a medical student

Post date: 02/05/2023 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 29/06/2023

A medical student contacts Medical Protection after they assist in the aftermath of a road traffic collision.

A medical student had been out walking down an icy country lane when they found a motorcyclist lying in a ditch next to his bike. They called 999 and were informed that an ambulance would be sent. While waiting for help to arrive, the patient’s condition deteriorated, and they became concerned about his airway and breathing. They tried to reposition the patient to enable assessment and intervention but encountered some difficulty due to the terrain. The patient suddenly arrested and sadly died despite prolonged resuscitation.


How Medical Protection helped

A few months later the Coroner wrote to the student to request a statement. When the student member contacted Medical Protection for help, we appointed a medicolegal consultant (MLC) who provided advice on the structure and content of the statement, bearing in mind that there would likely be an inquest in due course. The MLC talked them through the inquest process and advised the student to let Medical Protection know if they were called to give evidence.

The student shared their concern that they may possibly face accusations for inadvertently causing the death when trying to move the patient. They were understandably distressed at the thought of this, and also worried that the family may try to sue. The student was informed that Medical Protection would offer support should the family take legal action, and reassured that there is legislation in place that affords some protection to those acting as a Good Samaritan (Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015).

The student was subsequently asked to attend the inquest as a factual witness. Her MLC provided advice on giving evidence and what to expect on the day, resulting in the inquest passing uneventfully.


Learning points

Medical Protection provides its members with assistance for processes arising as a result of a Good Samaritan act. This applies no matter where in the world any action is brought.

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 provides some protection for any person who performs a Good Samaritan act. This legislation means that the court will take a full and sympathetic account of the actions of the person performing the act in the event that something goes wrong and they are sued.

In an emergency situation, there is no legal obligation on a doctor to assist. However, paragraph 26 of the GMC’s Good Medical Practice states:

“You must offer help if emergencies arise in clinical settings or in the community, taking account of your own safety, your competence and the availability of other options for care.”

Those involved in a Good Samaritan act may wish to prepare a factual account of events while they are fresh in their mind in case a statement is later required.

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