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‘Good Samaritan’ bill could give doctors more protection, says the MDU

GPs who act as ‘good Samaritans’ by helping in emergency situations could be provided with extra protection by a new bill going through Parliament, a medical defence body has said.

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill – announced in the Queen’s Speech – would mean judges would take into account whether an individual was intervening in an emergency to assist someone in danger when deciding whether they should be liable for causing an accident.

Dr Richenda Tisdale, a medico-legal adviser with the Medical Defence Union, said the new bill could provide doctors with ‘additional reassurance as it could protect them from being sued.’

She said: ‘Doctors have an ethical duty to give what assistance they can in an emergency outside their work.  It’s unusual, if not unheard of, for Good Samaritan acts by doctors to result in legal action. We haven’t heard of it in the UK, but it is something that concerns our members and so we have made arrangements so they could seek our help if they were sued here or abroad. The new bill is welcome as if it became law, it could provide additional reassurance as it could protect them from being sued here.’

A previous Medical Defence Union survey of GPs, GP trainees and hospital doctors showed that just under 40% of the 127 respondents had helped out in an emergency as good Samaritans between two and three times, while 13% had assisted more than five times.

The MDU regularly advises its members about their legal position when they have stepped in to help in an emergency, the union said.