Most physicians willing to jump in as Good Samaritans in a medical emergency

A new survey of North Carolina physicians found their willingness to act as Good Samaritans in a medical emergency was much higher than reported in previous studies.

That willingness to help was greater in those physicians who were more familiar with Good Samaritan laws, which exist in all 50 states and protect healthcare providers from negligence claims, according to the study published in BMJ Open.

Approximately 93 percent of the physicians who responded to the survey said they had acted as a Good Samaritan the last time they encountered an opportunity to provide emergency medical assistance outside of routine clinical care. The most common reason for not intervening was that another health provider had already taken charge. Only 13.3 percent of respondents said a concern for legal liability would prevent them from offering help in an emergency.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health last year mailed surveys to 1,000 randomly selected physicians living in North Carolina and got responses from 253 doctors. Four out of five physicians reported previous opportunities to act as a Good Samaritan. There was no difference in how doctors responded based on sex, practice setting, specialty type or experience level.

The most common place where doctors offered medical assistance was on an airplane. Most physicians were confident in their ability to provide emergency care and said it was a moral obligation to provide assistance.

The ability to stay cool under pressure, be resourceful and work with others are all traits that serve doctors well in an emergency situation, as FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

Of course Good Samaritan behaviors works both ways. Earlier this year, a retired physician injured in a hunting accident credited a stranger's help with saving his life.

To learn more:
- read the study