Magazine article Medical Economics

Will the Good Samaritan Law Protect You?

Magazine article Medical Economics

Will the Good Samaritan Law Protect You?

Article excerpt

Malpractice CONSULT

Answers to your questions

Q: I'm a retired family practitioner. My homeowners association recently purchased two automatic external defibrillatons (AEDs) and asked if I'd join a squad to respond to emergencies in our development A few RNs, some retired and some still working would also be on the squad. I no longer carry malpractice insurance. Would my state's Good Samaritan law protect me from liability?

A: Most likely. Although there are some exceptions, it's rare for a volunteer to lose a malpractice suit for providing emergency assistance. There's nothing in our legal system to prevent a patient from suing, of course, but it's likely the case would be dismissed as a matter of law before a trial.

Many states now have laws facilitating the widespread availability and use of automatic external defibrillators. The laws set forth a framework to ensure that AED users receive appropriate training and that the devices are maintained and operated within guidelines.

Basic risk management principles should apply in setting up the program. Establish a protocol for proper use. Document how you and other regular volunteers are instructed on the proper use of the equipment. Make sure there is a program for continuing education.

Inspect the equipment regularly to certify that it's in good working order, and keep a log of the inspections. If any potential defect is noted, sequester the equipment until testing by an independent biotechnical engineer can be accomplished and documented.

Most Good Samaritan laws shield physicians only against liability for mere negligence, not for gross negligence. Juries are most likely to find gross negligence when a patient is left in worse condition than when he was found.

For instance, if a doctor who didn't know how to use a defibrillator were to injure the patient with the equipment, a jury might find him liable. …

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