In Ontario, there is no law compelling an individual to act in an emergency situation, though if someone decided to act, they would be legally protected from liability when attending to a victim in distress to a certain extent. This piece of legislation is known as the Good Samaritan Act, 2001, which was enacted to provide protection from liability in respect to voluntary emergency medical or first aid services.
The Act stipulates that a “person who voluntarily and without reasonable expectation of compensation provides emergency first aid services is not liable for damages that result from the person’s negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services, unless it is established that the damages were caused by the gross negligence of the person” (Government of Ontario, 2001).
When looking at this legislation, it is important to note that one is not completely shielded from liability, as instances of gross negligence can be liable for damages. Gross negligence can be described as reckless or voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable serious injury or harm. An example of gross negligence could be a good Samaritan improvising medical procedures on a distressed victim without adequate training, or injuring others in process of providing assistance.
The Good Samaritan Act is also extended to health care professionals, who provide emergency first aid services outside their place of work, without having the appropriate facilities or tools available. A health care worker could not be liable for damages if their emergency assistance were negligent, though they could be liable for damages if their actions were deemed to be grossly negligent, which would be at the discretion of the trial judge.
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