Delaware is discussing whether Good Samaritan physicians should be granted immunity. Predictably, there is opposition from the trial lawyers:

Imagine that a doctor operates on the wrong patient due to a mix-up. Perhaps she operates on the correct patient, but removes the wrong leg.

Or a doctor is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while delivering a baby, and causes injury or death to the mother or child. Or that a psychiatrist rapes his patient during a therapy session.

In every one of these situations, and even more egregious examples, if the doctor was a volunteer during a state of emergency, he or she would be immune from any liability to the victim if House Bill 134 becomes law.

As well as this letter – I’ll let it speak for itself:

Is this really about doctors’ fear of being sued, or is it about doing favors for insurance companies that have been paid premiums but will not have to pay out the claims if this state legislation passes?

Residents should pay attention because their rights are being taken away. If this legislation passes, taxpayers also will pay for the care of those injured instead of insurance companies that are shielded from paying.

After Sept. 11, 2001, lawyers all over the country volunteered to represent victims of the attacks. Not one of them asked for immunity.

(via a reader tip)

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  • Anonymous

    I particularly like the Sept. 11 reference. What scoundrels of our present time can possibly miss the opportunity to exploit the event, no matter how irrelevant the reference?

  • Anonymous

    I would never be a good samaritan…I would never identify myself as a physician on an airplane, etc., and i would never stop on a road to help with an accident…these people are the enemy…they threaten to sue and do sue us…why would I want to help them? Why would any of you?

  • Anonymous

    A quick Google search shows both Mr. DiLiberto and Ms. Bove are prominent personal injury lawyers in that state. Shocking.

    I agree about the 9/11 comparison. What a stupid analogy. First of all, why would those lawyers need any kind of special immunity- their ability to practice law is hardly compromised the way a doctor acting as a first responder in the midst of an emergency is. Anyway, do these people really believe that the public needs their legal representation as much as they need medical care during natural disasters? Talk about delusions of grandeur.

    And finally what a crock to suggest that a psychiatrist who rapes a patient during a snowstorm is asking to be “above the law”. Did he not write a paragraph later that doctors commiting intentionally malicious acts will still be liable? Not to mention they’d still be subject to criminal charges too.

    I hope if either of those attorneys is ever injured in a disaster that the only volunteers around to help are fellow trial lawyers.

  • gasman

    Why immunity?

    My insurance protects my interests by providing the costs of lawyers if I am sued; suits without merrit cost potentially the same several hundred thousands of dollars to defend as those with merrit.

    My insurer is very specific about what is covered and what is not. When I am acting according to my hospital privledges then I am covered. When I am on the street, or out of state, whether providing emergency care or not, I am not covered. That means without protection rendering aid I have to put my home, savings, and children’s college education on the line.

    So it comes down to a societal bargain. Does the general public want to encourage physicians, nurses, off duty paramedics, and other health providers to step up to public service? The price to an individual member of society is:
    1) no indemnity – less likely to receive aid from a skilled bystander with no chance for cash compensation later, or
    2) with indemnity – more likely to receive aid from a bystander with a greater overall chance of surviving intact, but no chance for cash compensation later.

    Note that in both scenarios, there is no possibility of legal action against health care providers.

    About two years ago I was walking home with my 6 month old in my arms when I witnessed an MVA at an intersection. To render aid I handed my child to a total stranger, got covered with blood and vomit, and sustained an laceration from broken glass that later required my own trip to an ER for debredement and suturing.

    The lawyer’s analogy is crap. There is no emergency legal assistance that people need while bleeding at the roadside. They were merely rounding up clients whom they could later represent, possibly at 30% of millions. Any liability exposure they had as a result was simply a calculated business decision; the potential gains outweighted the potential losses. The responding ‘good samaritan’ physician cannot charge for their services (if they do then they are subject to ordinary liability).

  • Anonymous

    Maybe they can start “lawyers without borders” to exploit legal vulnerability in 3rd world countries and add to their burgeoning debt. You think Bolivia would welcome an influx of Personal Injury Lawyers? I think they’d do to them what we should: line them up against wood poles and shoot them in the head.

  • Anonymous

    “That means without protection rendering aid I have to put my home, savings, and children’s college education on the line.”

    Why? In no state is your home at risk, unless it’s one damn expensive home. The Supreme Court just ruled IRAs cannot be touched, and it’s likely many college savings plans are similar. Plus, with an umbrella liability policy, which is extremely cheap, you would have no worries.

    “I think they’d do to them what we should:”

    Talk really tough anonymously on the Internet?

    So do you guys believe that if a physician is inebriated or impaired due to drug use, they should receive immunity even if they are acting as a volunteer? Or if they negligently remove the wrong leg?

    Because immunity would cover those situations as well. So where do you come down?

  • Cathy

    I sure hope all the Lawyer’s take very good care of themselves and their health. One wonders just were does an Attorney go to get medical care? It would seem unlikely that they could receive appropriate care when most physicians are so outwardly hostile towards them.

  • Anonymous

    Cathy,

    I think most of these guys are just venting, the same way people sometimes vent about their physicians. I expect most here, with the exception of a couple of seriously unhinged anonymice, think enough of themselves and their profession to give appropriate care regardless of the recipient.

    That proposal at the last AMA (was that the group) to not treat lawyers accept in emergency situations, didn’t get far.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    “Maybe they can start “lawyers without borders” to exploit legal vulnerability in 3rd world countries and add to their burgeoning debt.”

    A good argument can be made that the lack of the rule of law is what keeps many of these third world countries poor. When people cannot count on the ability to enforce contracts or patents, or to right wrongs except by the barrel of a gun, the ability to earn a living peacefully is often rendered impossible.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    CJD: EXCEPT. E-X-C-E-P-T

    I personally would happily hate-f some of the lawyers on TV the way they do it to us, if it were legal. And every time i’ve witnessed a lawyer receive care (not from me, witnessed) the defensive stuff done is beyond belief.

  • Anonymous

    “I think most of these guys are just venting”

    Wishful thinking on your part…we know when we are seeing a lawyer…it is written on the intake form or somehow it comes up in conversation…

    I refer a lawyer to every specialist possible, and they in turn do every test on them imaginable…so in a way we are sticking it to you…just under the guise of “appropriate care”…I hope you enjoy those future endoscopies/cat scans/nuclear stress tests/biopsies.
    enjoy defensive medicine!

  • Michael Rack, MD

    “Plus, with an umbrella liability policy, which is extremely cheap, you would have no worries”
    Umbrella policies don’t cover malpractice.
    “In no state is your home at risk, unless it’s one damn expensive home” Your home is at risk in most states, except Texas and Florida.

  • Anonymous

    “Because immunity would cover those situations as well. So where do you come down?”

    We help people like you to make a living…ordering you to take meds, laboratory work, scans, referring you to the er, specialists…this is how we save up for retirement…you ingrates don’t deserve our care on our time off…anyone who would act as a good samaritan is crazy. I haven’t thought twice about not responding when someone shouts “is there a doctor around!” or drive by a motor vehicle accident. For a fleeting moment I may think about it, but then I picture the a-hole attorney’s out there looking to make a buck, or the litigious patients I have seen..and I happily move on to go to enjoy time with my loved ones. Now do you understand where we come down?

  • Anonymous

    “Your home is at risk in most states, except Texas and Florida.”

    That’s simply not true. Most states don’t have the unlimited amount on protection of the primary home, but all have it.

  • Anonymous

    “CJD: EXCEPT. E-X-C-E-P-T”

    Sorry, didn’t realize the spelling police were watching. I’ll preview my posts next time.

  • Anonymous

    “Wishful thinking on your part…”

    That’s why I EXCEPTED you unhinged anonymice.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    I guess you think every md is unhinged…because every md i have ever known or been involved with sends lawyers for unecesary tests.

  • joe blow

    I love how you people think that signing a post CJD or Joe Smith is any less anonymous than signing as anonymous…what jokers…

  • Cathy

    Joe Blow, Maybe not but it does allow you to see how many posts one person has posted, as oppossed to their being 35 anon’s and you have no clue if it is 35 different people or all one person.

    I sometimes imagine folks might be arguing with themselves on here.
    A bit of MPD going on I think..

  • Anonymous

    I’ve actually been berated when I’ve identified myself as an Emergency physician at an emergency. I’ve had people say to me “Are you crazy, stopping to help someone in this litigous state?” The world is aware of the wrath of the sodomites (but not good samaritan laws)

    I too, would love to hate-fu-k Jim Sokolove, the sodomite who’s perpetually on TV in my state (though he doesn’t actually practice law, he’s a businessman)

  • Anonymous

    Exhibit 1 in the unhinged category is the poster above.

  • Anonymous

    CJD is a great lawyer. He walks into court pushing his 400 lb. woman “plaintiff”, who slipped in the frozen food aisle at the local Krogers, and he starts insulting his opposing lawyer, calling him “unhinged”. At least Doc Elliot has a fixed delusion that he has a medical degree, and wears a white coat and stethescope to bed.

  • Gasman

    In the end however, the deal is really simple.

    You are lying on the street bleeding, the health care provider without immunity steps around you and moves on. You have no one to sue.

    You are lying on the street bleeding, the health care provider with immunity just might stop to help. You have no one to sue.

    In which scenario are your odds of being whole better. Sure, the passing health care provider could be incompentent, uncaring, and drunk; but lets just suppose for the moment that most people you meet are not drunk, are not incompenent fools, and have no particular malicious intent toward you. If that’s how you see the world, then opt for indemnifying the person who stops to help you.

    Indemnity probably works both ways; the bystander cannot sue you or bill you later most likely. The passer-by who slips in your blood just might blame you for bleeding on a public right-of-way.

  • Anonymous

    If you stop to help someone and your help falls below the standard of care, why shouldn’t you have to pay for the resulting damage?

  • Anonymous

    I have never seen so many Lawyer phobic doctors any where before. I’m glad every action in my life is not made on the fact that I have such fears of attroneys.

    I guess when you see someone laying in the street bleeding you might as well just walk around them and go about your business. Hopefully here will be enough laypeople around who would offer any type assistance they could. May not be much but atleast we can offer comfort in someones time of need, which seems to be a hell of a lot more than your willing to offer.

  • Anonymous

    “If you stop to help someone and your help falls below the standard of care, why shouldn’t you have to pay for the resulting damage?”

    Because if i’m at risk for lawsuit when I’m away from work (since all I do is cover my ass from lawsuits while i’m at work) there is no chance in utter hell i’m stopping to help someone if it means i’m at risk for even more lawsuits. They could bleed to death for all I care, that’s preferable to having some greedy asshole stand in court and tell me what a bad doctor I am.

  • Anonymous

    The greedy ashole, you speak about, would be unequivically correct!

  • Anonymous

    If it happenned, he also would end up walking his kids to work one day and find a steak knife prtrudig form his left eye. It;s time we fight back against this one- sided rape.

  • Anonymous

    “I have never seen so many Lawyer phobic doctors any where before. I’m glad every action in my life is not made on the fact that I have such fears of attroneys.”

    Tell you what walk I mile in our shoes. Go to med school, residency, then work in medicine for awhile. Then I think you will have a clue as to what is going on in this profession. Otherwise your is just an uninformed opinion.

  • Jerry

    If I’m the one lying on the ground bleeding, I’d rather have the drunk doctor stop to help than walk on by.

  • diora

    Jerry, I am with you. Sometimes people seem to loose perspective.

  • Anonymous

    “It;s time we fight back against this one- sided rape.”

    Sometimes I feel like we physicians are like suicide bombers…we are getting raped by the trial lawyers and litigious patients and have no way to fight back other than to order unnecessary tests, unecessary referrals, waste patients time and copay money, and just bankrupt the whole system…

  • Anonymous

    “If you stop to help someone and your help falls below the standard of care, why shouldn’t you have to pay for the resulting damage?”

    In other words, why not let the lawyers loot as many pockets as they can, deep ones preferably? That seems to be the tort lawyer position. Consider gasman’s comment: no help with immunity versus help with immunity, how is a victim worse off? Forget “standard of care.” In an on-the-street situation which may be uncontrolled and where improvisation with little information may be all that is possible, no practitioner is working under any of the conditions where ordinary professional standards are kept. Why should my BLS or Heimlich be held to a higher standard than a layman? I am not working in a doctor-patient basis as I would in my practice.

  • Anonymous

    This article and discussion reminds me why I as a physician don’t stop at accident sites any more if anyone else has already stopped.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous wrote:

    “In other words, why not let the lawyers loot as many pockets as they can, deep ones preferably? That seems to be the tort lawyer position.”

    I have a friend who went to NYU law school who described his tort law classes as exactly that: go after the deepest pockets.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s cut through the BS and understand what’s really going on.

    The dream of lawyers is to impose joint and several liability on the entire country. They know that this is the only way to really expand their business. Universal joint and several liability will generate the necessary billable hours and wealth transfer to keep lawyers (and their DemoRAT supporters) happy.

    This medical immunity for emergency care is simply one of those roadblocks to the lawyers’ dream. Naturally, they fear the loss of income so they fight it.

    Certainly, these lawyers dress their self-serving agenda in noble rhetoric, usually the rhetoric of “protecting” the public from “bad” doctors. No one, of course, should be fooled by this.

    The next time some scumbag lawyer tells you doctors that only a small percentage of the “bad” apples are affected by their litigiousness, ask them why they are so against “loser pays” legal systems like the one they have in other first world countries. After all, loser pays only filters out the “bad” or “meritless” lawsuits. If they’re such vaunted supporters of the “rule of law”, then why can’t they trust their billable hours or contingency payouts to the swift and sure justice and wisdom of our legal system?

    If their cases are likely to win based on the merit of their claims against a defendant, then they have no reason to fear a loser pays system.

  • Anonymous

    “In an on-the-street situation which may be uncontrolled and where improvisation with little information may be all that is possible, no practitioner is working under any of the conditions where ordinary professional standards are kept.”

    You misunderstand the meaning of “standard of care”. It would correspond to the changed conditions. The very definition of the term contemplates that. The physician in rural Mississippi is not held to the same standard as the one at Johns Hopkins.

  • Anonymous

    There already is loser pays in most states. the belief that loser pays will change anything is a foolish one.

  • Bladedoc

    Wow, a lot of unhinged ranting back and forth. For what it’s worth, I’m a trauma surgeon — I also have professional liability insurance that only covers me at work. As someone who will be held to a higher standard of care than even an EMT/paramedic with less in the way of equipment and no insurance, it would take a lot to push me to render aid. Blood and broken bones — no. People stuck in a burning car — yeah.

  • Kim

    Wow – not all lawyers are megajerks.
    My husband has a small private practice. Trust me, I work full time as a nurse, we are not millionaires.

    He does not do medical malpractice.

    For what he does do, which are personal injury cases (small ones that firms won’t take), will and trusts and pro bono work for the elderly, would you believe he pays over $8,000 a year in malpractice insurance.

    Did you know lawyers can get sued for malpractice, too?

    The are some major slimeballs out there in the legal profession. Believe me, sometimes my husband has to deal with them.

    Just like there are some pretty awful doctors that I have come across in almost 30 years.

    I understand the bitterness when we in the medical/nursing profession are forced to watch our back with every move.

    But I’d still help at the scene. I haven’t lost that much faith in humanity yet.

  • Anonymous

    In the USA no physician should act as a Good Samaritan under any circumstance.

    Why are you a physician to begin with? If it is for money your motivation was completely misplaced to begin with, but you aren’t the kind to stop for others anyway. You deserve to face the threat of lawyers.

    If you are a true physician (let the reader decide), you need time off so that you can help the patients who come to see you. If you are walking down the street on your time off, let others who work in EMS take care of the patient.

    The general population is unquestionably disconnected from physical reality. As physicians we are alone in the world. Take some time to think about that.

    Carefully screen your new patients, do not take it lightly. Build relationships with those who understand we are here to heal and otherwise they can let nature take its course without us.

    Drop your malpractice insurance and self-insure with a group of physicians you respect. Together build a fund so that in the rare chance you get sued you can hire a bigger shark than the attorney fighting against you. Or are you more comfortable with your lifestyle than you are upholding your principles?

    Never compromise patient care and always admit human mistake.

    When you get sued NEVER settle. NEVER back down because a lawyer is standing in front of you.

    Otherwise, just shut up.

  • Anonymous

    I hesitate to even post, given the vitriol. But I am compelled, as a healthcare provider and (gasp!) an attorney, to add my thoughts and try to insert some logic into the emotion.

    Immunity makes sense in the context of disaster services and providing care voluntarily, as a Good Samaritan. Immunity benefits society, by encouraging those with training to assist those in need. Properly drafted, immunity statutes protect against those “horror stories” because the immunity is not available for gross negligence or wilful and wanton misconduct. And NO-ONE, physician, lawyer, minister or whatever, should be immune from responsibility for reckless, willfully improper behavior. Providing care alongside a road, in a cornfield, or even on the floor of the bathroom at a neighbor’s house is a totally different environment than the environment in which most physicians practice. On top of poor lighting, lack of space and often risky surroundings, equipment commonly relied on is not available. These differences greatly impact the care that can be given – and should be taken into account in determining whether an action rises (falls?) to the level that immunity should not attach.

    America has a great tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, and law should support that. Well-drafted laws can address liability and licensure issues, and can help assure that when a disaster strikes, medical help can be offered. We need to support and encourage volunteerism by healthcare providers, not discourage them. Immunity is an important part of this.

    As an aside, not all lawyers are “out to get” doctors, and not all lawyers chase the almighty buck – just as not all doctors behave as badly as some headlines might suggest. Some of us sit in offices drafting contracts; some of us try to help find collaborative ways to create positive outcomes. We are individuals, and we deserve to be recognized as such.

  • Angus Fong – Manchester, UK

    I have read every single posts here and i wonder aloud what is happening to this world.

    I am not yet a doctor. But being a final year medical student in the UK it just horrifies me that medical practice has come to such a stage.

    I am in no way meaning to condemn any doctors in the above posts stating they are not going to stop and help on the road side, but i remember the first day in my clinical teaching our hospital dean told us that we are now regarded as someone with medical knowledge, and have the responsibility to help in any emergency situation. He put it bluntly, if u were found out to be a medic and not helped on the scene, u get ur ass fried by the GMC (General Medical Council).

    I guess it must mean something when someone who spends a good 8 years of studying to become a doctor so that he can help people, felt so threatened that he wud rather leave the injured to die on the street. Any lawyer who is reading this shud really have a long hard look in the mirror and asks himself why.

    I feel sorry for doctors in the states and at the same time fear that my future practice wud one day become as such. Please keep your litigious culture to your side of the Atlantic.

    But for now, I will be the first one to stop and help at the scene, be it on the plane, on the road or wherever.

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