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.
I was wondering why a private medical event provider is worried about trouble for performing a task they have been employed to do?
The cames had many hundreds of private medical staff, both at the games and in public places such at main railway lines etc. The main aim is to provide support as QAS could not even come close to providing staff needed.
During events such as these, the health department even allows overseas doctors and nurses to work on thier own team, without being registered in Australia.
They’re worried about the scope of the tasks they’re employed to do. They’re employed to provide event first aid but does that extend to disqualifying an athlete? Not an unreasonable question but one would hope a question that was addressed by the organisers for each sport in briefings to the event organisers in turn briefing the medical provider in turn briefing the responders. For many athletes the responder will be their own coach and/or doctor not the event providers but no doubt a marathon presents different logistic issues than say a boxing bout.
Surely I’m not the only one who rolls my eyes every time ‘being sued’ is brought up (mostly but no exclusively in volunteer circles) in pre-hospital care. Do your job properly and the law will generally protect you. The Australian Judicial System has better things to do than to give people money because they’re sooky things didn’t go their way.
Actual negligence with actual functional or monetary loss needs to be demonstrated first and even then surely a good lawyer would weigh up the value of going though the court system after Nanna Bloggs, the part time medic and instruct their client on the pointlessness there-of.
The ethical ramifications are the only issue regarding the Commonwealth Games. The likelihood of a poor medical outcome of a few minutes delay to the rhabdo patient is unlikely. The worst that could happen is the event organiser will throw their weight around and not use the medic company again but if they’re in the wrong, would you want to, or vice-versa?
I would me more worried about being sued over Duty of Care or Standard of Care issues. It would be difficult to successfully prosecute someone for providing competent care to a semi-conscious, non-ambulant competitor.
I wouldn’t worry about being sued at all
Thanks for your opinion on this topic, it has been most reassuring.