In April, the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 came into force in England and Wales. It sets out some additional factors that a court must consider when assessing a negligence claim or alleged breach of duty.
These factors essentially outline a new legal test that is especially pertinent in the case of a good Samaritan act. They are:
- Social action – whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members.
- Responsibility – whether the person, in carrying out the activity in the course of which the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred, demonstrated a predominantly responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others.
- Heroism – whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger.
A good Samaritan act is where medical assistance is given in a bona fide medical emergency, which a healthcare professional may happen upon in a personal rather than professional situation. While there is no legal duty to assist (in UK law), clinicians have an ethical and a professional duty to help.
As clinicians in such a situation, you should do the best you can in the circumstances with the resources available, working within the limits of your competence. MPS will assist with any problems arising from a good Samaritan act anywhere in the world.
When an emergency arises, it is vital to:
- Carefully consider your own competence and expertise, particularly if you are retired and/or no longer registered with the GMC:
- Consider whether anyone else is better placed to assist, such as a currently practising/registered doctor
- If retired, you should make clear you are no longer in practice
- For those who no longer hold a license to practise, you must make this known.
- Take a full history and carry out a full examination in order to make an informed assessment
- Suggest options for managing the situation (balance benefits and risks of treatment)
- Work within the confines of your expertise and training, except in a critical emergency
- Delegate and communicate appropriately.