A medical student was preparing for her elective in Australia. She planned to travel extensively in south-east Asia before taking up her elective post. A friend had told her they should refuse to get involved in an emergency in case they were sued. She contacted the MDU to ask whether her membership covered her for Good Samaritan acts.
Assisting in an emergency can save lives and you should not be deterred by fears of the medico-legal consequences. In fact, the GMC requires doctors to offer help in emergencies, whether in a clinical setting or in the community (Good medical practice (2013) paragraph 26).
As a student you are not yet bound by this advice, but you might be the best qualified person around at the time. From a medico-legal point of view, attending at an emergency, such as a road accident, is not nearly as risky as it is sometimes perceived to be. It is very rare for patients or their relatives to sue or complain if they have been helped in that way. Even if they did, the standard expected of you as a student would be that which is reasonable for a person who is still in training and working under supervision, allowing for the circumstances in which you found yourself.
In such a situation you would need to be aware of the limits of the help you could provide. Also, if someone more qualified to assist was available, such as a qualified First Aider, you would need to step back and to allow them to take over.
The MDU provides indemnity for Good Samaritan acts anywhere in the world, including Australia. Unfortunately, because of legislation, we cannot offer indemnity for normal clinical work in Australia.
This guidance was correct at publication 12/12/2014. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.