Monday, October 25, 2010

Medical: Good Samaritan Law vs. Duty of Care

Good Samaritan Law a legal principle that prevents a rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for 'wrongdoing.' Its purpose is to keep people from being so reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions if they made some mistake in treatment.

In Alberta it is the Emergency Medical Aid Act.


Chapter E‑7

HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, enacts as follows:


1 In this Act,

(a) “physician” means a person who is a regulated member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta who is a physician, surgeon or osteopath;

(b) “registered health discipline member” means a person who is registered under the Health Disciplines Act or a regulated member under Schedule 1, 10, 13, 18 or 25 to the Health Professions Act;

(c) “registered nurse” means a person who is a registered nurse within the meaning of the Health Professions Act.

RSA 2000 cE‑7 s1;RSA 2000 cH‑7 ss146,147,155

Protection from action

2 If, in respect of a person who is ill, injured or unconscious as the result of an accident or other emergency,

(a) a physician, registered health discipline member, or registered nurse voluntarily and without expectation of compensation or reward renders emergency medical services or first aid assistance and the services or assistance are not rendered at a hospital or other place having adequate medical facilities and equipment, or

(b) a person other than a person mentioned in clause (a) voluntarily renders emergency first aid assistance and that assistance is rendered at the immediate scene of the accident or emergency,

the physician, registered health discipline member, registered nurse or other person is not liable for damages for injuries to or the death of that person alleged to have been caused by an act or omission on his or her part in rendering the medical services or first aid assistance, unless it is established that the injuries or death were caused by gross negligence on his or her part.

RSA 1980 cE‑9 s2;RSA 1980 cH‑5.1 s34;1984 c53 s27

Laws enacted in other provinces of Canada:

Quebec: is unique in Canada in imposing a duty on everyone to help a person in peril. The duty to take action stems from the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms enacted in 1975, and the Civil Code.

Ontario: Good Samaritan Act, 2001.

BC: Good Samaritan Act

Nova Scotia: Volunteer Services Act


Duty of Care

In tort law, a duty of care (or delict in Scots law) is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The plaintiff (pursuer in Scotland) must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant (or defender) has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability in tort or delict. The duty of care may be imposed by operation of law between individuals with no current direct relationship (familial or contractual or otherwise), but eventually become related in some manner, as defined by common law (meaning case law).

Duty of care may be considered a formalization of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities held by individuals towards others within society. It is not a requirement that a duty of care be defined by law, though it will often develop through the jurisprudence of common law.


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