Good Samaritan protections could be expanded for free health care events

jholleman@thestate.comFebruary 3, 2014 

20131125 Doctors

MCT — MCT

A physician who stops to help an accident victim on the highway in South Carolina is protected from malpractice claims by the Good Samaritan statute.

A bill being considered in the state Legislature this session would extend the immunity to anytime a physician provides health care services for free. That would cover events such as the annual SC Mission events, which are held throughout the state and provide free health care services.

The bill, S.748, was introduced late in the 2013 session by Sen. Raymond Cleary, a Georgetown County Republican and a dentist. The S.C. Dental Association also stages a major free dental care weekend each year.

Some doctors recruited to help at the SC Mission events have expressed worries about malpractice suits, said Dr. Bruce Snyder, president of the S.C. Medical Association.

Those sorts of free medical events “are clearly a need in this state,” Snyder said, based on the thousands who show up at them. “If physicians are immunized from risk, we will find more willing to provide services.”

The medical association also provides a Doctor of the Day at the State House during the legislative session. While that physician is more likely to bend the ear of legislators on health care issues, he or she also can provide free medical services if necessary. Snyder said he treated a member of the Legislature on one of his Doctor of the Day appearances. His service that day wasn’t covered under the current Good Samaritan law, but it would be under the proposed legislation.

The bill will be before the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee Thursday.

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