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You’re likely familiar with good Samaritan laws, or the idea that if you attempt to help a person in serious distress, you’ll be protected from potential legal liability. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception – in fact, good Samaritan laws in Missouri don’t apply to a large majority of citizens. The law is instead designed to target cases where rendering assistance to those in need could come with potential liability for healthcare professionals and witnesses of drug overdoses.

Protecting Healthcare Professionals

Missouri’s good Samaritan law specifies that only those who have prior medical training or experience are protected from liability when they attempt to render aid to an individual and only in an emergency situation. This can include doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other trained professionals. Most importantly, the law only protects from legitimate mistakes. Any form of gross negligence, or a purposeful action that harms another individual, can still hold the same legal consequences.

While this may seem over-restrictive, the law is designed to protect both care providers and the injured person. If an individual isn’t trained in the necessary medical procedures, they may do more harm than good in attempting to render care. The law also only covers emergency situations, so regular care that is provided in a hospital or other care facility does not apply. This is essential to ensuring that necessary precautions and reports are conducted to prevent medical malpractice.

Cases of drug overdoses

When a drug overdose occurs, the witnesses are often fearful of calling for help because of the potential charges of drug possession. In 2017, Missouri expanded good Samaritan laws to cover reporting of drug overdoses. If someone is aware of a drug overdose, they can call for medical assistance or bring the person to emergency care without fear of being arrested or charged for drug possession or use if the only evidence of such was gained from obtaining medical assistance.  This expansion of good Samaritan laws has helped save lives in many cases of drug overdose.

Overall, good Samaritan laws serve their purpose – but don’t work in the manner that it’s often assumed they do. The average citizen should remain careful when dealing with emergency situations, as you may not be given the protection from liability as you thought.