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The waiting game

Does doctors' indemnity cover Good Samaritan acts?

Does medical indemnity cover treatment of medical emergencies by doctors in planes in other countries’ air space?

Does medical indemnity cover treatment of medical emergencies by doctors in planes in other countries' air space?

MDU members are provided with a professional indemnity insurance policy that extends to clinical negligence claims arising from Good Samaritan acts worldwide (including the air space above countries).

Although some airlines may indemnify doctors who volunteer to help in a mid-air emergency, doctors are advised to politely decline if asked to sign any forms waiving an airline's responsibility for the consequences of emergency treatment.

It is very rare for patients or their relatives to sue or complain about a doctor who has helped in an emergency, and we are not aware of any UK cases. If a patient did make a claim, you would be judged according to your training and experience and allowing for the circumstances.

There is no duty under UK law for a GP to volunteer in an emergency but they do have a professional duty to help. The GMC's Good Medical Practice (2006, paragraph 11) says: ‘In an emergency... you must offer assistance, taking account of your own safety, your competence and the availability of other options for care.' There is a legal requirement to offer assistance in some countries, such as France.

Whether you provide treatment, or just help make the patient comfortable, make a record. This could be passed on to the medical team on the ground but ideally you should also keep a note of it. You may also wish to provide your contact details. Apart from the medical handover, you should not pass on information about the patient to any third party without consent.


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