To Be A Good Samaritan

What does it take to be a Good Samaritan? On the year 1989, Aline Camoux,RN, and Sarah John, MD, served as volunteers at the Cajun Music festival in Rhode Island. Ralph Boccasile, an attendee had an anaphylactic reaction due to seafood gumbo ingestion. Dr. John and other first aid crew members came to him for help while Nurse Campoux stayed in the tent.

When Dr. John approached Mr. Boccasile, he was still conscious. She identified herself as a medical practitioner and asked him if he needed help. He told her regarding his condition and asked for an injection. Although he did not mention what injection, Dr. Johns was aware that either adrenaline or benadryl can counteract the allergic reaction. So she instructed the first aid team to procure it in the first aid tent while she stays with Mr. Boccasile.

Shortly after, the team was back with an Epipen and Dr. John administered the shot to his exposed thigh. Nurse Campoux also came to render assistance. Upon her arrival, Mr. Boccasile still complained of the same symptoms and requested for another shot. Within minutes he had a cardiac arrest. The team initiated CPR and stayed with the patient until an ambulance arrived. Despite medical efforts made en route and at the hospital, Mr. Boccasile never regained consciousness and died the next day.

His widow sued both Dr. John and Nurse Campoux justifying negligence for upon responding to the scene they did not initially bring emergency equipment. The defendants countered the complaints by the Rhode Island’s Good Samaritan statute which protects medical volunteers rendering gratuitous services. The court dismissed the lawsuit due to lack of evidence to show that the defendants deviated from reasonable standards of care.

Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan law are laws that offer legal protection for people who give reasonable assistance to those who are injured and ill. The state of California first passed the statute last 1959 and all other states followed. The law has several guiding principles for it to take effect. First, the help rendered should be in an emergency situation where in life and death is at stake. Second, services provided should be free of charge. Third, it should be given in “good faith”. The provider also has a responsibility to stay with the patient until stable or persons with higher training come to the scene.

The Good Samaritan law takes its name from the parable found in the bible which is contained in Luke 10:25-37. Popularly known as the parable of the Good Samaritan,  it is about a traveler who was hurt by robbers but no one stopped to help him but a stranger from the land of Samaria.

Health Care Professionals

Sometimes we will face untoward situations outside the workplace. We may witness a car collision, a man who collapsed due to heart attack, a choking victim while eating at a restaurant, and many other emergency scenarios that will need assistance. As medically inclined professionals we should do whatever we can to help. With the Good Samaritan law we will be protected against  future lawsuits that may come. However, it is important to know that statutes differ in every state and country. There are also countries that do not have such law so a thorough review of your state or countries statute may be valuable.

According to Atty. Cameron deGuerre, the following are questions to be asked by physicians and other health care professionals in order to ascertain potential liability: (1) Is this an emergency situation? (2) Do I have a pre-existing duty to render medical treatment? (3) Will I receive remuneration for my services? (4) Will my services be provided in “good faith”? (5) What protections do the applicable state statutes provide?

The case of Boccasile vs. Cajun Music Limited is an example of how justice prevailed based on the Good Samaritan law. Nevertheless, it is discouraging to note that those who have a genuine heart to help are more often than not persecuted than acknowledged. We can therefore conclude that  it is not enough that one provides a selfless act to be a Good Samaritan. It is also essential to be aware beforehand  of the underlying principles that make up the law for self preservation.

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About wordsofanurse

Having graduated as a nurse, I had my clinical experience for 5 years both local and abroad. This experiences has taught me that nursing is an ongoing process. Through this blog, I would like to share my own insights regarding topics that awaken my mind.