Tag Archives: medical misdiagnosis

On-duty emergency physicians are liable for damages despite the Good Samaritan Act

"To identify the most overlooked risks to physicians, Medical Economics asked several thought leaders to share their insight into strategies for protecting office-based practices."

In Illinois, the Good Samaritan Act protects individuals giving instructions for aid, or rendering aid to others in emergencies, from civil liability for damages resulting in the process. Simply stated, a bystander or passerby who sees someone with an injury or emergency condition does not have a legal duty to stop and give general or medical aid. Moreover, a passerby who stops to assist and render some type of aid, cannot be sued and found liable for civil damages if the endangered individual suffers and injury or dies in the process. The purpose of the Good Samaritan Act is to allow people to try to save a choking victim without worrying about a wrongful death suit if they are not successful.

The Good Samaritan Act includes a physician exemption from civil liability for emergency care. The statute states in pertinent part: “Any person licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 or any person licensed to practice the treatment of human ailments in any other state or territory of the United States who, in good faith, provides emergency care without fee to a person, shall not, as a result of his or her acts or omissions, except willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the person, in providing the care, be liable for civil damages.[i]

While the language of the statute is clear, there question has arisen, what happens when the emergency care physician is not providing health care for a direct fee, but rather works as an on-duty physician.

The Illinois Supreme Court holds that the Good Samaritan Act does not shield on-duty physicians who do not bill for their services, and on-duty physicians have the same standard of care regardless of whether they bill for their services. The issue arose in a case involving an on-duty emergency room physician, responding to a “code blue” for a patient with trouble breathing and swallowing. The doctor intubated the patient and opened the airway, and nevertheless the patient experienced permanent brain damage.[ii] The doctor working as an emergency room physician when the “code blue” was called for a patient on another floor of the hospital, whom the doctor had never previously met or treated.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court held in the case, the emergency room physician responding to the “code blue” for a hospital patient, the immunity from liability under the Good Samaritan Act did not apply because the doctor’s services were not performed “without fee” where the doctor was paid to work in the emergency room.[iii]

If the facts had been different, this court could have applied the Good Samaritan Act. Assume a different set of facts where the doctor was not on-duty, working as an emergency physician at the time he responded to the “code blue” for the patient on another floor, separate from the emergency room. Assume the same treatment was given, the doctor intubated the patient, who experienced permanent brain damage, there would have been a more likely chance the doctor may have been able to be clear of civil liability under the Good Samaritan Act.

As new events and occurrences give rise to litigation over health care liability, the courts will decide those cases and the health care law and litigation firm of Michael V. Favia and Associates will share those holdings.

Michael V. Favia & Associates are available to assist with analysis and advice on all aspects of physician practice and litigation matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit www.IL-Licensing.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.

 

[i] Illinois Good Samaritan Act, Sec. 25 Physicians, 745 ILCS 49/25

[ii] Beckers Hospital Review, Illinois Supreme Court: Good Samaritan Act Doesn’t Shield On-Duty Emergency Physicians, by Ayla Ellison, Apr. 29, 2014.

[iii] Home Star Bank & Financial Services v. Emergency Care & Health Organization, Ltd., 2012 IL App (1st) 112321

Real stories: Medical mistakes and misdiagnosis, some causing death!

Some examples of medical mistakes and misdiagnosis come directly from the stories reported by doctors!

Some examples of medical mistakes and misdiagnosis come directly from the stories reported by doctors!

Everyone! A recent news article, Misdiagnosis Threatens Potentially Everyone[1], and the aptly titled article should cause us all to put our critical thinking caps on for a moment, consider that doctors are people too, and make mistakes. The recent study published in a medical insurance industry journal reports that nearly 12 million people who go to outpatient care clinics are given a false diagnosis.[2] While the numbers are compelling, many people are just fine and receive top quality medical care. The percentage risk of error, however, should cause people to pay attention, ask questions, seek second opinions and do their own follow up research.

Some examples of medical mistakes and misdiagnosis come directly from the stories reported by doctors! The following are a sample of a larger list collectively published on the Thought Catalog blog:

  • Overlooked Gunshot – “We didn’t find it till the chest x-ray.”
  • Misdiagnosed With Epilepsy – “As a very young doctor in training I misdiagnosed a woman with epilepsy.”
  • Guy Didn’t Know He Was Shot – “Scratch on his neck and “feeling drowsy”…turns out the “scratch” was an exit wound of a .22 caliber rifle round.”
  • Life Of A Pathologist – “He also got drunk at work a lot.”
  • Accidental Death – “As an ICU nurse, I’ve seen the decisions of some Doctors result in death. Families often times don’t know, but it happens more than you’d think.”
  • Oops – “I’m a nurse. I’ve given an anticoagulant (blood thinner) to the wrong patient.”
  • Dentist Blunder – “I was performing a simple extraction and preparing for the case when I didn’t realize that I had the x-ray flipped the wrong way the whole time.”
  • Glued Glove To Patient’s Face – “Anyone who has used derma bond before knows that stuff can be runny and bonds very quickly. I glued my glove to her face. Her mum was in the room, and I had to turn to her and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve just glued my glove to her face.””
  • Destroyed Ankle – “Patient here. A doctor tried to put an Ilizarov fixator on me, for limb lengthening, without proper knowledge or experience. He damaged the growth cartilage, dislodged my fibula and destroyed my ankle.”
  • Radiation Horror – “I worked in a radiology department in a trauma center and the amount of “redo” x-rays and CT scans we’d do to a simple careless error was mind boggling. Nobody seemed to care but I would cringe every time. So much needless extra radiation on some patients because the techs were lazy.”

We all wish it was not true, but medical mistakes and diagnosis happens. To learn more, read our blog article, Complex healthcare: Several factors contribute to medical mistakes and deaths

One focus of Michael V. Favia’s law practice is health law, which includes medical negligence/malpractice. He stays current on news and events involving healthcare and is a member of a few boards of advisors/directors including the Chicago Concussion Coalition (Sports Legacy Institute) and Health Leaders (National Center for Healthcare Leadership).

If you are interested in learning more about Michael V. Favia & Associates, serving Chicago and its suburban communities, please visit the Favia Law Firm website for resources and articles of interest. To contact the firm to speak to a lawyer about a healthcare-related concern, you may dial (773) 631-4580. For more information about the firm’s practice areas, you can also visit the firm’s Facebook and Twitter sites. Please “LIke” and “Follow” respectively to keep in touch!

[1] Guardian Liberty Voice: Misdiagnosis Threatens Potentially Everyone. By Lindsey Alexander, Apr. 20, 2014.

[2] Quoted in the Guardian Liberty Voice article cited above, “The study was published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal.”