Arizona state law protects individuals from criminal prosecution when they attempt to help others in good faith. Typically, the Good Samaritan law applies to two main types of situations: administering aid to a person who suffers a personal injury or medical event in a public place or intervening on behalf of an individual suffering from a drug overdose.
Good Samaritan Laws in Personal Injury Events
Arizona’s Good Samaritan law protects individuals who perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or who use automated external defibrillator devices to revive an individual who falls unconscious in a public place. Prior to the enactment of these laws, an individual who offered aid to an unconscious person could still face civil liability if he or she injured the victim he or she attempted to help. For example, cracking or even breaking ribs during the administration of CPR is a common side effect.
The Good Samaritan law protects individuals who act reasonably in good faith without hope or expectation of reward or compensation. This law applies to both medical professionals and other individuals who act in good faith to help others in distress. Some state laws include specific provisions for lay Good Samaritans who attempt to offer aid to others in need without certain medical certifications or other qualifications. Trying to perform CPR without training may not qualify an individual for protection under the law.
In the case of medical professionals, the Good Samaritan law prevents a medical professional from facing civil liability from a patient for administering life-saving treatment. For example, an unconscious patient arrives at an emergency room and a doctor administers lifesaving treatment. However, the patient is devoutly religious and objects to the treatment used in accordance with his or her beliefs. The doctor would not be liable for an informed consent violation because the doctor acted in good faith to save the life of an unresponsive patient.
Good Samaritan Laws and the Ongoing Opioid Epidemic
The recent Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act included startling statistics concerning opioid-related deaths in the state. Between June of 2017 and January of 2018, more than 5,200 Arizona residents suffered opioid-related overdoses. More than 800 died of opioid-related overdoses. Maricopa County and Pima County reported the highest numbers of opioid-related deaths during this time.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has increased distribution of anti-overdose drugs like Naloxone to help curb the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state. The Good Samaritan law plays a role in this endeavor as well. The Good Samaritan law prevents individuals from suffering criminal prosecution for drug offenses when they seek out Naloxone for someone suffering from an opioid overdose or when they report an opioid overdose to the authorities.
Prior to the enactment of Arizona’s Good Samaritan law, many individuals in a position to save another person’s life from a drug overdose would hesitate to do so out of fear of arrest for drug-related crimes. People who abuse drugs like heroin tend to congregate together, share supplies, and keep an eye on one another after using. Unfortunately, many people in these situations died of overdoses because their friends and others nearby were too scared of the police to call for help.
Ultimately, the goal of Good Samaritan laws is to encourage average citizens to offer assistance to others when they need it without fear of criminal prosecution or civil liability. If you or a loved one recently offered assistance to someone in need and now face criminal charges or a civil suit, contact a Phoenix personal injury attorney to find out how your state’s Good Samaritan laws apply to your situation.