In Practice

When are doctors legally obliged to stop and render assistance to injured persons at road accidents?

David Jan McQuoid-Mason


Unlike the USA, South Africa (SA) does not have ‘Good Samaritan’ laws that oblige doctors to stop at road accidents. In SA, the conduct of doctors in such situations is governed by the common law. Doctors coming across injured people at a road accident should stop and render assistance, unless they are likely to be exposed to personal danger or injury, they are mentally or physically incapable of assisting, or other medical or paramedical practitioners are at the scene. Where there is the threat of personal danger to the doctor, they must immediately report the accident to the police, advise the police to send protection and call for urgent ambulance assistance. Doctors should remain in a safe place near the scene until the police and ambulance arrive and check that paramedics are available to stabilise the injured before departing. Where there is the threat of danger, if doctors are mentally or physically unable to assist or if other medical or paramedical practitioners are at the scene, doctors may or may not be required to stop.

Author's affiliations

David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Duty to treat; Road accidents

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(6):575-577. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i6.10503

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-12-30
Date published: 2016-05-08

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