Should you raise your hand when asked “is there a doctor on-board?”

Date: Sep 17, 2018

No one can predict something going wrong on a conventional flight, however with more people travelling by air nowadays, the number of in-flight medical events is gradually increasing, according to Emirates. The largest airline by international traffic states that in 12 months from 2016 they handled more than 60 flight diversions due to medical emergencies.

Thankfully, cabin crews are sometimes lucky enough to have a medical professional on-board to lend a hand.

But are medical professionals doing more harm than good where their reputations are concerned?

Are GPs leaving themselves open to legal liability?

Offering expert help in a time of medical crisis seems like the noble solution for a medical professional, even when they’re not on the job. However, what happens if something goes wrong? Is the GP to blame despite doing the best they could without the correct means to do so?

The thought of being legally liable in this instance is a worry for GPs, and one that may prevent them from offering assistance in such scenarios.

Thankfully, the New South Wales Government, along with other Australian states, has implemented the Good Samaritan legislation under the Civil Liability Act 2002.

What is a good Samaritan?

The Act defines a good Samaritan as a person who comes to the aid of someone who is injured or at risk of being injured without the expectation of payment, and does so in good faith.

In the example of offering medical help when an unsuspecting injury arises, the Act protects GPs against legal liability.

Protection of good Samaritans

According to the Act:

  • A good Samaritan does not incur any personal civil liability when assisting an injured person in the event of an emergency.

Interestingly, despite the Act being in place, not all GPs are protected. A number of exclusions are in place which means the Act does not apply if:

  • The good Samaritan’s negligent act caused – or increased the risk of – injury after coming into contact with the affected person.
  • The good Samaritan failed to exercise reasonable care.
  • The good Samaritan’s duty of care was breached by the presence of alcohol or drugs.

So, if you’re a medical professional faced with the question, “is there a doctor on-board?”, there’s no need to shy away from raising your hand, unless you meet any of the exclusion criteria. On the other hand, if you feel that you’ve been victim of medical negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with the expert team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see how we can help.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.