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Can doctors acting as Good Samaritans be held liable?

Indeed, physicians have difficult jobs where there may be times where they must make split second decisions that can have critical implications on patients’ lives. This is why they go through extensive training in order to properly diagnose illnesses and injuries and to make care recommendations accordingly. Despite the difficult nature of their profession, doctors must use reasonable care when performing their duties.

However, in situations where doctors are acting as Good Samaritans in emergency situations, should they be held to the same standards? More importantly, should a patient injured by a doctor in this position be able to initiate a malpractice suit?

This is an important question given that doctors may have an ethical duty to assist members of the public in the event of an emergency. Nevertheless, Good Samaritans are protected in a number of situations under New York law, including where:

-          A physician’s response is in the realm of what a “reasonable response” would be

-          The response was made in good faith and not based on an expectation of compensation

-          The person who the physician helped was in “immediate danger” or peril.

However, there are certain situations where a doctor could be held liable despite the intent on being a Good Samaritan, including where:

-          The doctor acts within his or her regular or assigned job duties

-          Provides services for volunteer athletic events

-          The doctor acts outside the scope of his or her training

If you have questions about whether a doctor could be held liable in these situations, an experienced attorney can help. 

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