Will a Good Samaritan Law Protect You for Providing Mutual Aid?

A reader submitted a question about their state’s Good Samaritan law. He said that where he lived, many individuals could not get the health care they needed, especially those without medical insurance.

He wondered if licensed nurses, who provide what the reader termed “mutual aid” (which is not part of Good Samaritan laws) to those in need, would be protected under an exception in a Good Samaritan law.

Brief overview of a Good Samaritan law

As I wrote in my blog about undertaking the role of a Good Samaritan, you are not legally obligated to provide care to anyone outside of your professional responsibilities to established patients.

If you do decide to stop at the scene of an accident in an emergency or provide care to someone who is experiencing a medical event, you are provided immunity from a lawsuit if an injury occurs during the provision of care to the individual.

Generally, immunity exists if:

  • The injury resulted from your ordinary negligence (but not willful or wanton negligence).
  • You have no knowledge of any medical or other condition of the individual to whom you provide care.
  • No compensation is received for the care you provided.
  • You provide care in good faith.
  • You were not responsible for the situation in which you provide care.

What is mutual aid?

Mutual aid is defined in many ways, but for the purposes of this blog, I have adopted the characteristics from an article on the Ethical Unicorn website. The article describes mutual aid as individuals coming together as a group to take care of each other. Whatever aid is required is provided in a “spirit of solidarity and reciprocity, with a larger aim towards liberation and progress for all.”

Furthermore, everyone has his or her contribution to the group and everyone has something they need, so the relationships in the group are “symbiotic.” Everyone is seen as equal.

Examples include volunteer-run food pantries, volunteers or organizations providing transportation to medical visits, and computer savvy individuals helping the elderly and homeless sign up for needed appointments.

Although issues of legal liability would seem to be minimal in the above examples, if you as a nurse provided care under a mutual aid approach, do Good Samaritan Laws apply if that care resulted in an injury or death to the person for whom you provided care?

Good Samaritan guidelines vs mutual aid

First, the purpose of a Good Samaritan Law is to encourage you to provide care without concern for liability if your conduct confirms to the required elements listed above. If you were concerned about liability, the theory goes, you would not even think about stopping to provide care in an emergent situation.

As a result, you benefit from providing care within the limits of your education and training, and the individual suffering from an emergent situation is receiving care until first responders arrive. Your intervention may save that person’s life or prevent further worsening of his or her condition. A Good Samaritan law can provide mutual benefit to both patient and caregiver. So, you might argue, the law should …read more

Read full article here: nurse.com