Illinois Supreme Court: Good Samaritan Act Doesn't Shield On-Duty Emergency Physicians

The Illinois Supreme Court has held the Good Samaritan Act, which protects from liability physicians who have no obligation to treat a patient and volunteer to do so in an emergency situation, does not extend liability protection to on-duty emergency department physicians that do not bill for their services, according to an Illinois Bar Journal report.

In the case of Home Star Bank & Financial Services v. Emergency Care & Health Organization, Ltd., an on-duty ED physician responded to a "code blue" for a patient who was unable to breathe or swallow. The patient experienced permanent brain damage after the physician's attempt to intubate him, leading the patient's guardian to file a malpractice suit against the physician, according to the report.  

The physician argued he was protected from liability under the Good Samaritan Act because the patient was in the care of another physician when the code blue was called and the patient was not billed for the medical services provided, according to the report.

In its unanimous opinion, the Illinois Supreme Court concluded the Good Samaritan Act did not extend protection to the physician and held all on-duty ED physicians are held to the same standard of care regardless of whether they bill for their services, according to the report.

In support of its opinion, the court stated the Good Samaritan Act is intended to protect physicians who volunteer their services, and the ED physician was not a volunteer because although he did not bill the patient for his services he was paid by the medical facility he was employed at for his time, and helping the patient was part of his job requirement, according to the report.

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