This question is inspired by events at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. My correspondent works

… for a private event medical provider and we are discussing the liability of a medic who intervenes when an athlete is in dire need of intervention, but this puts them at risk of being disqualified. Some of my colleagues are worried we could be sued. The obvious trigger for the discussion is the Gold Coast marathon runner.   Someone with ataxic movements from heat stroke is probably also cognitively impaired so paternalism may over-ride autonomy.

If people spend their lives worrying that they may be sued, it’s time to find another job.  The law here will be largely as it always is.  A person has a right to refuse treatment but if they are not competent treatment that is reasonably and in their best interests can be administered without consent.

The issues that would add complexity are the terms under which the race is run that not only provides for disqualification but would I suggest also provide for the provision of medical care and may well have various waivers in it, ie the athlete consents to treatment and waives various rights if officials intervene.  Professional athletes may have coaches who may be able to consent on the athlete’s behalf, so if you approach the athlete and the coach says ‘no’ you may hesitate to see what happens, but if it appears the athlete’s life is in danger then again you could step in.

The issue will be judged against what’s ‘reasonable in the circumstances’ which includes the medical response plan for the event and the rules under which the event is conducted which are matters I can’t comment on.

And in any event it will be the organisers, then the employer who would be sued long before any employee.