Ontario Good Samaritan Laws and Doctor Liability - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Monday, 29 May 2017

Ontario Good Samaritan Laws and Doctor Liability

#AskStevenWilder

If you are not feeling well and go to a doctor, the law recognizes a standard of care your doctor must meet in providing services to you. Doctors whose actions fall below that standard of care could be liable for injuries suffered by a patient. The level of competency required of physicians and the way the laws are set up to compensate patients who are injured are pretty clear, but what might not be as clear are the rules that apply when health care professionals are not at the office, clinic or hospital and render assistance to someone in an emergency situation.

Moral duty opposed to legal requirement

The Canadian Medical Association code of ethics asks doctors to offer assistance to a person urgently in need of care, but it is an ethical standard to which physicians should conform. An ethical or moral guideline does not have the same effect as a law imposing a legal obligation on a doctor to render assistance to someone injured or in distress when the traditional doctor-patient relationship has not been established.

As a general rule, the law does not impose a legal duty on physicians in Canada to stop at an accident scene to give emergency medical care to a victim. The exception is Quebec which added a Good Samaritan provision to its civil law code imposing a duty on any person, not just doctors or nurses, to come to the assistance of someone who is in peril. Medical professionals are protected from medical negligence lawsuits that might arise from their offering assistance under the law.

Ontario enacts a Good Samaritan law

Unlike Quebec which imposes a legal duty to offer assistance to someone in need of it, the province of Ontario did not go as far in enacting legislation pertaining to Good Samaritans. A physician who comes upon the scene of a motor vehicle accident is not required to stop and lend assistance, but if he or she does stop, they cannot be sued for injuries or death suffered by a victim resulting from the efforts to help the person.

For example, if a doctor sees a person having what appears to be a heart attack and administers CPR, he or she is shielded from a lawsuit by the victim who might have suffered a fractured rib during the procedure. The doctor’s actions must meet the standards expected of a reasonable person acting under similar circumstances.

Liability of medical professionals

Good Samaritan laws seek to encourage individuals with the proper emergency medical training to assist others who might be in distress and in need of help. The protection physicians are given against lawsuits for injuries caused while rendering the emergency assistance do not extend to instances of gross negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse or other health care professional at the scene of an emergency.

Courts have defined gross negligence as conduct that far exceeds ordinary negligence and leave it to each trial judge to decide on a case-by-case basis. If you believe you might have a claim against a doctor, nurse or other medical professional related to care given at the scene of an emergency, you should speak to a lawyer for guidance.

Getting help when you are injured

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have experience handling all types of personal injury and medical negligence cases. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your right to compensation against a physician. Consultations are free, and we have offices conveniently located throughout Ontario.

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