Anna Nicole Smith’s Death — The Duty to Call EMS
Posted on Mar 28, 2007 in Celebrity Justice
Now that the findings have been released, and we know that Anna Nicole Smith officially died of an “accidental drug overdose,” it’s time to consider what those findings may mean to each of us and if there are lessons to be learned.
Sure there are. Things your mother told you — like “just say no” — come to mind, but perhaps there are some things that aren’t so readily apparent from the tragedy of Anna Nicole Smith’s death at 39.
Like the question of when do you have the right to refuse medical treatment, and when do you have a legal duty to help someone who is refusing medical treatment?
According to Dr. Perper’s investigative findings, Anna Nicole refused to seek medical treatment (via a 911 call, trip to the ER, or otherwise) even though her fever had spiked to 105 degrees. Not the best choice for a woman known for … well …. bad choices.
Still, Anna Nicole Smith was a legal adult and she had the legal right to say she didn’t want treatment. So do you, if you’re of legal age and haven’t been declared incompetent by a court in an officially signed document (order, judgment, you get the idea). This is still a free country.
Anna Nicole Smith had a legal right to refuse medical treatment. So do you.
But what if you’re with a sick friend, who’s getting sicker by the minute? Or, there’s been a fight or a car crash, and he’s been hit on the noggin’ — you’re thinking concussion and he’s thinking medical bills. Or, you’re in the room with Anna Nicole Smith and she’s really, really ill?
Here, the law gets stickier. If you have a legal duty to that person, say you’re a caregiver of some sort, then your responsibilities may include making a phone call. A nurse needs to call a doctor if she’s getting out of her league with patient care. Nannies need to call when children in their care are in need, as do home health aides that are assisting seniors. If it could be considered a part of the job, then the person may have a duty to make the call.
Friends have no such duty. Strangers have no such duty. There is no general, overall legal duty to help someone who is injured. Bystanders at a car accident aren’t legally bound to call EMS.
No legal duty, that is. Moral obligations, that’s a whole different ballgame. And there, I say – if your friend needs help, then you make the call, no matter how mad he gets about it. Good friends will risk losing the friendship by getting that medical care — that’s the kind of thing that good friends do.