Successful Appeal in Dekker Case
Many WA doctors are aware of the case of WA Radiologist, Dr Leila Dekker, who has just won an appeal against a finding of improper conduct by failing to give first aid at a car accident in Roebourne 12 years ago. Dr Dekker was found guilty by the State Administrative Tribunal earlier this year because she failed to stop when an out of control vehicle narrowly missed her vehicle at a T intersection and rolled into a ditch.
Dr Dekker asserted to the Tribunal that she heard but did not see the crash, had no torch (it was dark at the time) or mobile phone and felt unsafe to attend at the scene due to well-known incidences of violence in the area.
The WA Court of Appeal reversed the Tribunal’s decision saying it had erred in deciding that there was a specific professional duty on a medical practitioner to attend and provide assistance to a person who was not a patient.
The AMA (WA) had strongly criticised the Tribunal decision, had made representation to the Medical Board of WA and had conducted surveys of members to ascertain their views on the case. Overwhelmingly, WA doctors expressed dismay and discomfort at the implications for the medical profession.
The original Tribunal decision had resulted in considerable concern amongst the medical profession in WA with much uncertainty around the obligations surrounding ‘Good Samaritan Acts’. The appeal decision will provide some reassurance to doctors that there is no specific professional duty to render assistance and that in an emergency situation, a range of factors needed to be taken into account.
For more information, please contact Christine Kane