Ethical duty to rescue: Court of Appeal decision

Much discussion followed the 2013 decision Medical Board of Australia v Dekker [2013] WASAT 182, a conduct matter following an incident in which a practitioner failed to stop and render assistance after a ‘near miss’ incident involving her motor vehicle and a second motor vehicle.

In a judgment delivered today, the 2013 decision was revisited on appeal by the Court of Appeal of Western Australia, in Dekker v Medical Board of Australia [2014] WASCA 216. The appeal was allowed.

Absent a specific professional duty (in effect, to stop and render assistance) in 2002, a detailed discussion appeared at [79]ff as to whether there was evidence supporting a generally accepted duty of the type identified by the Tribunal. The Court held that there was not.

The unusual circumstances relevant to the asserted duty were noted at [88] to include the lack of any existing doctor / patient relationship. However that does not appear to have been central to the appellate finding.

The earlier adverse conduct finding was set aside. For reasons including the many years that had passed since the 2002 events, the matter was not remitted for rehearing.

With thanks to Enore Panetta (Panetta McGrath Lawyers) for drawing this decision to my attention.