Duty of care and Duty to rescue

Duty of Care

As a first aider, you have a duty of care to exercise reasonable care and skill when providing first aid to a casualty.  You must use your knowledge and skills in a responsible way and not act outside of your level of skill or training.

The common law does not impose an automatic duty on a first aider to go to someone’s aid, unless they have voluntarily taken on that role, e.g., a nominated first aider in a workplace.

However, once you start first aid treatment of a casualty, you have a duty of care to continue treatment until:

  • The scene becomes unsafe.
  • Another qualified person arrives and takes over.
  • The casualty shows signs of recovery.
  • You are physically unable to continue.

Duty to rescue

A frequent question is whether lay persons, by-standers, first-responders and healthcare personnel off-duty have a duty to assist (rescue) a person in need of emergency care. The legal issues surrounding resuscitation by lay persons, trained volunteers and those who have a duty of care to rescue are clear in only a few circumstances.

While ‘Good Samaritans’ and ‘Volunteers’ have no duty of care to rescue, many differences in legislation exist between jurisdictions which provide protection for ‘Good Samaritans’ and Volunteers when they do assist a person in need of emergency care. Medical practitioners are subject to legal, ethical and professional principles.

Some State or Territory legislation can impose a duty of care for a person to render assistance to another who needs emergency care. Please check the legislation of your relevant State or Territory.

A “Good Samaritan” is defined in legislation as a person acting without expecting financial or other reward for providing assistance. They are required to act at least with ‘good faith’ and ‘without recklessness’.