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Legal Speak

Bad PR and the Good Samaritan

Published March 7, 2013 10:51 AM by Tony DeWitt

The recent release of a 911 tape from a non-skilled residential facility has much of the country talking about what a caregiver's obligations are to the patient. In the case making news this month, the nurse involved believed that the facility had a strict policy that forbade employees from rendering any kind of care -- including CPR -- to the residents. The facility later announced that the nurse had a "complete misunderstanding of our practice."

(if you haven't read the full story, read the AP's version here.)

Editorials like the one appearing in the Tennessean illustrate how profoundly this affected people without any knowledge of health care operations.  As the newspaper noted "how can any moral human being refuse to ask anyone nearby to help, as happened in this case, during the course of a 7-minute, 16-second 911 call."

They also illustrate why newspaper reporters should not practice law. The editorial in the Tennessee paper states that the acts of the nurse in this case should have been protected by the Good Samaritan law. That would be correct if this happened outside of a facility, and when the nurse was not on duty or not being paid to care for the resident. But if you're on duty and you're being paid to care for a resident, the failure to exercise the proper care and to discharge your duty under the standard of care subjects you to a lawsuit for malpractice, and the Good Samaritan law doesn't apply.

Reacting to an emergency in the community -- at the mall or at a softball game -- is always protected under the Good Samaritan law. A plaintiff would have to show something more than gross negligence in most cases to get a judgment in almost any state. But when you're at work -- and this is important --- you are not doing the work of a good Samaritan when you're rendering care. You're being paid for it. So that means you have to do it right.

Don't let well-meaning people explain your legal rights. If you have questions about what your state's Good Samaritan law covers, talk to a lawyer in your state.

More articles on this topic:

Documentation Keeps Nurses Out of the Courtroom

Reducing Liability Costs

Return to ADVANCE for Long-Term Care Mangement homepage


posted by Tony DeWitt


As an administrator or leader in senior living, you have likely read everything you can about the incident

March 29, 2013 8:48 AM

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About this Blog

    A.L. "Tony" DeWitt, RRT, CRT, JD, FAARC
    Occupation: Attorney
    Setting: Jefferson City, Mo.
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