The Good Samaritan Law was developed to reduce a bystander's hesitation to help and injured person, for fear of being prosecuted or sued for wrongful death or unintentional injury. It was found that the general public was becoming more and more resistant to helping a person who needed assistance as the tendency for that patient to later sue the person who tried to help them increased. As a result, the Good Samaritan Law came to be.
The Good Samaritan Law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from state to state. However, there are some common features that are nearly universal*:
Unless a caretaker relationship (such as parent-child or doctor-patient relationship) exists prior to the illness or injury, or the “Good Samaritan” is responsible for the existence of the illness or injury, no person is required to give aid of any sort to a victim.
Any first aid provided must not be in exchange for any reward or financial compensation. As a result, medical professionals are typically not protected by Good Samaritan laws when performing first aid in connection with their employment.
If aid begins, the responder must not leave the scene until:
- It is necessary in order to call for needed medical assistance
- Somebody of equal or higher training arrives to take over
- Continuing to give aid is unsafe (this can be as simple as a lack of adequate protection against potential diseases, such as latex gloves to protect against HIV) – a responder can never be forced to put him or herself in danger to aid another person.
The responder is not legally liable for the death, disfigurement, or disability of the victim as long as the responder acted as a rational person of the same level of training would done under the same circumstances
The responder must not commit assault by giving aid to a patient without consent.
- Consent may be implied if the patient is unconscious, delusional, or intoxicated-or if the responder had a reasonable belief that this was so; courts tend to be very forgiving in adjudicating this.
- If the victim is not an adult (generally, at least 18 years old), consent must come from the legal parent or guardian.
- If the legal parent or guardian is not immediately reachable, consent is implied (no matter what the patient claims)
- If the legal parent or guardian is unconscious, delusional, or intoxicated, consent is implied (with the same caveat as above).
- If child abuse is suspected, no parental consent is needed.