In the United Kingdom there is currently no statutory protection for those performing Good Samaritan Acts and whilst the common law offers some general protection in this regard, individuals engaged in areas such as medical services are well advised to ensure that their business insurance arrangement provides them with insurance for Good Samaritan Acts.
What is a Good Samaritan Act?
Most will be familiar with the movie line “Is their a Doctor on board the aircraft” but this is actually a reality and occurs thousands of times each year. A doctor is being called upon to assist in a medical situation which falls outside their normal course of employment and perhaps even outside their specific area of medical expertise. The same can apply to a wide range of other medical professionals such as nurses, consultants, paramedics.
The possible repercussions of something going wrong during or following an intervention by a Doctor provides concern for some medical professionals, especially in the litigious society we live in but against this is the ethical duty of a doctor to provide emergency medical assistance where necessary. The General Medical Council (GMC) in the GMC Good Medical Practice confirms;
“In an emergency, wherever it arises, you must offer assistance, taking account of your own safety, your competence, and the availability of other options for care.”
The concerning point for members of the public and society at large is that there is no legal obligation in UK law for a doctor to intervene in an emergency situation, as there is elsewhere in the world and without the protection of an appropriate Good Samaritan statute it is understandable that a very small minority of healthcare professionals are unwilling to get involved.
Can I be sued over a Good Samaritan Act?
Unfortunately there is no statute in UK law that offers a strict defence to those taking emergency action to assist others and whilst the common law and precedent is in favour of the Good Samaritan or Rescuer, an action is still possible and these have been brought by either the person treated or their estate under such as areas of the law as assault or trespass. To many this is ludicrous and in fact in many countries of the world there is in fact statutory protection at law for such acts. In the UK the government have announced that they would like to bring forward legislation to provide some immunity for those performing an intervention and quite correctly, this should come in time.
Has an action in respect of a Good Samaritan Act been successful?
The good news is that it is extremely rare for an injured party or their family or estate to take such an action and that to date no action against a Good Samaritan has been successful the bad news is that if such an action is taken there will be significant legal costs in mounting a defence to that action.
Do I need insurance for Good Samaritan Acts?
Whilst there have been no successful action is respect of Good Samaritan Acts and in truth future would be highly likely to fail there is the burden of legal defence costs to be considered and these can be met by an appropriate malpractice insurance policy.
It is standard in the insurance market for a medical malpractice insurance policy to extend to include claims arising from Good Samaritan acts. You should find the inclusion of such acts in the “Insuring Clause” of the policy and a definition of Good Samaritan Acts will also be included in the following or similar terms
The expression “Good Samaritan Act” shall mean treatment administered at the scene of a medical emergency, accident or disaster by the Assured who is present either by chance, or in response to a S.O.S. call following a disaster.
If you have any queries regarding insurance coverage for Good Samaritan Acts or medical malpractice insurance you can call us directly to discuss your concerns or apply on-line for a quotation.