Wrongly-imprisoned doctor lets a man die. What consequences should he face?

Today’s story is about one Kimball Richardson, M.D. If his name reminds you of the protagonist of The Fugitive, that’s because I’m ripping off that property. Richardson’s story is not unlike that of his cinematic progenitor; he’s a physician, framed for murdering his spouse, wrongfully convicted and sentence to death.

But there’s some significant differences: four, in total. First off, Richardson is not an athletic, straight white dude at the height of his career, but rather a nebbish, gay black man still laden with student debt. Second, his spouse was killed not in their home but while they were on vacation in Texas. Third, Richardson never escaped from custody, but rather spent a year in prison, where his experiences were exactly as pleasant as you’d predict for a skinny gay black nerd serving time in Texas for killing his male white spouse

Richardson was eventually exonerated–let’s say thanks to a hardboiled PI who found the real killer. He’d lost his license for obvious reasons. The prison doctor was sympathetic and got him a janitorial job in the infirmary, and during his off hours Richardson devoured medical journals, in preparation of getting his license reinstated once he was free

Which brings us to the fourth difference between this story and The Fugitive. Shortly before Richardson was scheduled to be released, there was a prison riot, and a certain guard was gravely injured. Richardson and several others had taken refuge in the infirmary. One of those others was a guard who, being a physically abusive, racist homophobe who had made Richardson’s life hell for months. The prison doctor was also injured–not mortally, but too badly to work. Richardson was uninjured and had both the time and the equipment needed to help the guard. He didn’t. The guard died.

Should Richardson’s failure to save the guard affect his release? How about getting his license restored?

Seems like a violation of the Hippocratic oath to not help. But it wasn’t his job to save him. So my WAG, no effect on release, maybe an effect of re-licensing.

Only one of him, multiple injured. Triage means not everyone gets helped.

Now, if he knew he wasn’t prioritizing correctly, then, yes, I agree he has violated the Hippocratic Oath, which should have an impact on re-licensing. As a doctor, you don’t get to choose which patients to treat. At this in the this country. Mostly.

Last wrinkle: was he permitted to treat anyone? He was a prisoner. Are there rules that would forbid his taking action, even if he knew how? I could see that might be the case (prisoners having restricted access to medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, for two).

Nyet. The OP is specific that he had the time to help the guard. Quoting myself:

He chose not to help the guard because he didn’t LIKE the guard.

Since he lost his license, he’s no longer a doctor.
What are the limits of what he’s allowed to do before he’s practicing medicine without a license?

Someone should hit the Qadgop signal, but I would be very surprised if a person in an obvious emergency, administering care because no other help is available, is doing anything illegal.

He has neither the legal authority ti practice medicine nor the permission of the prison to use the medical equipment and/or supplies.

Nothing wrong with a bit of schadenfreude behind bars.

OK - assuming that he could help them both AND that there were no consequences for using prison equipment, etc, etc, then my answer still stands. Violation of the Hippocratic Oath. No reinstatement of dr’s license for you.

Did the injured prison guard, or anyone else in authority, request or order help from Richardson? If they didn’t, then technically Richardson would have been assaulting the guard – and if anything had gone wrong, that would mean an extra prison sentence.

We have Good Samaritan Laws that protect people (including doctors) who try to help, but aren’t successful. If a doctor happens on a car crash and tries to save a life, but the victim dies anyway, it’s very hard to sue the doctor.

But I don’t believe we have “Mandatory Samaritan” laws. If a doctor saw a car crash, and just drove right past it (he doesn’t want to miss his tee time) we would all boo and hiss, and there might even be a licensing review hearing, but he hasn’t broken any laws. He can always claim, “It would have been too dangerous to stop.”

Think about it: if doctors are required to drop everything, at any time, to save someone’s life – when the hell would they have a life of their own? When would they even be allowed to sleep?

(“If you had superpowers on Superman’s scale…should you be allowed to take weekends off?”)

I’m not a doctor or a lawyer (or a doctor/lawyer) but I believe Richardson is legally covered. He would have lost his license to practice medicine when he was convicted, which simultaneously took away both his authority to practice medicine and his duty to do so.

Now, as a layman, Richardson could choose to offer medical assistance in an emergency situation. You or I could do the same; the difference being that Richardson’s assistance would be more valuable than yours or mine. But none of us, Richardson included, are obligated to offer medical assistance. There is no general duty to rescue in the United States.

If there is a Duty to Care provision in the local law then he would have been obligated to apply aid to the best of his ability.

If he is stupid enough to tell someone that he did not help because he did not like the guy, he is too stupid to live anyway.

Anything else, prove he did something wrong.

The whole thing does not effect or affect him unless he gets stupid.

Bad/mean prison guards need killing on general principals.

< VEG >

No, and yes. No, it shouldn’t affect his release because Texas is not a “duty to rescue” jurisdiction. Yes, it should affect his licencing, IMO, if he admits to it. The Geneva oath (which I prefer to the Hippocratic) puts it like this:
I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

A doctor should treat Pol Pot, Stalin or, yes, Hitler, if he is able. And there’s jack in either Oath about “only while I’m licenced”

I, uh, think it’s a bit late for them. :slight_smile:

I’m neither a doctor nor a lawyer, but I’m leaning towards the philosophical view that if the state takes away the right to practice, then it takes away the duty as well. I can recognise that the sort of person driven to be a doctor might feel they have a moral imperative to act, per the oath MrDibble references above, but I don’t think the hypothetical former MD in the OP should have been obliged to treat the guard - and he should face no more censure for not acting than any other prisoner would have in the same circumstances.

You know that bit in Ghostbusters II where the ghosts invade the courtroom while our heroes are in the process of being banned from busting ghosts? Same principle applies. :smiley:

Good Samaritan laws generally do not apply to professionals, such as doctors and emts, such laws are designed to remove liability from untrained people trying to help someone who they come upon.

Except the guard wasn’t his patient. A doctor has no duty to render care to anyone whom they come upon. For example a doctor in a restaurant who sees another diner have a heart attack has no duty to intervene and liability only attaches itself if the physician actually begins to render care.

He needn’t be stupid for others to know what happened. There were several people in the infirmary. It’s not unreasonable to think that they may know that Richardson was the guard’s punching bag.

Who’s going to stop you?

To be clear Skald, his job in the infirmary was purely janitorial, correct? He had no medical responsibilities at all, even just as an patient aide of some sort? If that’s so, I’d say no consequences for release or for licensing.

The Hippocratic Oath has nothing to do with licensing. It’s taken voluntarily by most, not all, doctors when they graduate medical school as part of graduation. Not all med schools even bother with it anymore.