Today’s question comes from a First Aid educator who has
… a team of 20 community first aid educators I support.
The big Q, I am in a desert, an emergency doctor, and decide that I should do an emergency tracheotomy or this person will die. Will I get in trouble? I have done it a million times before!
I confess I’m not sure why it’s a ‘big Q’. If the person doing the tracheostomy is a registered medical practitioner, with expertise in emergency medicine and who had done the procedure ‘a million times’ what trouble could they get into? If they perform the procedure in a sub-standard way (taking into account all the circumstances) they may be negligent. Assuming however they have just come upon the emergency rather than arriving as a deployed medical team, then they can rely on the relevant ‘good Samaritan’ provisions (see Good Samaritan legislation – a comparison (February 22, 2017)).
If the procedure is actually contra-indicated, so that the doctor’s conduct represents the delivery of health care that is ‘not reasonably required for the person’s well-being’ (Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld), Schedule 1, definition of ‘unprofessional conduct’), or represents ‘conduct that is substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience; (definition of ‘unsatisfactory professional conduct’ and ‘professional misconduct’) then the doctor may be subject to issues of professional discipline. But that sort of conduct is not anticipated by the question.
A doctor who has experience and knowledge that can be used to save a patient’s life in an emergency, and where that action is not contrary to the patient’s known wishes, should proceed to act in the best interests of the patient.