Good Samaritan laws are in place to protect first aiders from financial liability. The government has designed these laws to encourage bystanders to provide first aid in emergency situations.
These laws assume that a first aider will do their best to save a life or prevent further injury. They require the first aider to use common sense – no emergency tracheotomies, for example – and a reasonable level of skill, and to only provide care that is within their training.
Good Samaritan laws protect first aiders who act in the same way another similarly trained, reasonable and prudent person would in the same situation. Use your common sense and stay within what you were trained to do, and you cannot be held responsible for the injuries suffered by the injured person.
For example, a “reasonable and prudent” person would:
- Move a person only if the person’s life was in danger
- Ask a responsive person for permission to help (consent) before giving care
- Check a person for life-threatening conditions before giving further care
- Call EMS/9-1-1
- Continue to give care until a more highly trained person takes over
Good Samaritan laws may not protect the first aider if their actions are grossly negligent or reckless, or if the first aider abandons the person after starting care.
There is no general legal duty to help someone in an emergency except for a person who is involved in a motor vehicle accident. That person must stop and give all possible assistance to the other persons involved.
Good Samaritan Act for Drug Overdose
The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call 9-1-1 for help.
The act can protect you from:
- Charges for possession of a controlled substance (i.e. drugs) under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
- Breach of conditions regarding simple possession of controlled substances (i.e. drugs) including pre-trial release, probation orders, conditional sentences and parole.
This act applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose. The act protects the person who seeks help, whether they stay or leave from the overdose scene before help arrives. It also protects anyone else who is at the scene when help arrives.
This act does not provide legal protection against more serious offences, such as:
For more information, visit Health Canada’s webpage describing the Act.
- outstanding warrants
- production and trafficking of controlled substances
- all other crimes not outlined within the act