The Korean Medical Association has urged the government to revise the Emergency Medical Service Act to protect doctors who assist an emergency patient from liability.
The KMA’s demand came after a family medicine specialist was sued for allegedly missing the timing to treat a woman who died due to an allergic reaction to bee acupuncture at an Oriental medicine clinic.
If doctors had no intention to hurt patients, they should be given full exemption from liability for an injury or death caused by their first aid regardless of the seriousness of the medical error, the KMA said.
|Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip (center) speaks during a news conference to call for exempting Good Samaritan doctors from liability in Yongsan, Seoul, Wednesday. At Choi’s right is KMA Spokesman Jeong Seong-kyun (left), and at his left is KMA Legal Affairs Director Kim Hae-young.|
The Article 5-2 of the Emergency Medical Service Act states, “No person who provides an emergency patient in critical condition, with any of the following emergency medical services or first aids shall be held civilly liable for the loss of property, nor be held criminally liable for any injury or damage caused by provision of such services, and shall be exempt from criminal liability for death, unless there is an intentional or grossly negligent conduct.”
KMA President Choi Dae-zip said the current law should be amended so that “Good Samaritan” physicians can be protected, in a news conference at the KMA’s temporary hall in Yongsan, Seoul, Wednesday.
“Exemption from liability under the Emergency Medical Act is not a full exemption from liability. The law reduces sentences or gives criminal liability only when there is no intentional or grossly negligent conduct,” Choi said. “Controversies over legal liability keep emerging even though the current Emergency Medical Act reflected the Good Samaritan Law.”
Medical professionals either receive help requests or voluntarily help emergency patients, Choi said. He lamented the current situation, in which the doctor who gave first aid should prove that the doctor made no mistake if the emergency patient gets injured or dies. If the doctor fails to do so, he or she is subject to civil or criminal punishment, he added.
“It is nonsense to ask whether a doctor’s help with good intention was negligent or not. If the doctor had no intention to hurt the patient in an emergency, the doctor should be exempted from liability,” he said.
Choi emphasized that the Emergency Medical Service Act’s article on the exemption from liability should delete the phrase, “unless there is any grossly negligent conduct.”
“Court judgment over grossly negligent conduct could vary, and the phrase opens a possibility that the doctor could face a civil or criminal lawsuit,” he said. “Consequently, the phrase discourages doctors to offer emergency treatment with good intention.”
The KMA head said he would provide legal support for the family medicine doctor, who faced a 900 million won ($810,000) civil lawsuit after helping the patient of an Oriental medicine practitioner.
“We are reviewing to pay the expenses for appointing a lawyer for the physician,” Choi said.
He went on to say that the bereaved family should immediately withdraw the “unreasonable lawsuit against the physician who provided medical treatment to save an emergency patient’s life.”
If the physician faces unfair punishment, no doctor will come forward to help an emergency patient, Choi added.
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