Medical treatment of US and Canadian visitors

Are members indemnified to treat overseas visitors?

A recent article in Pulse magazine highlighted the issue of indemnity provision for UK doctors and dentists providing treatment to visitors from the United States and Canada. The MDDUS has received a few queries asking for clarification.

In common with the other medical defence organisations, MDDUS does not indemnify doctors or dentists within the United States or Canada. However, US and Canadian visitors are entitled to seek health care while visiting the United Kingdom. The NHS has policies and mechanisms to deal with such situations and visitors may also access private healthcare.

In an emergency, any person irrespective of nationality can expect a healthcare professional to act to save life or prevent serious harm. Doctors in these circumstances should always act in the patient's best interests. They should also limit their actions commensurate with their skills, knowledge and experience. There is also a contractual and professional duty to act in such emergencies.

Members of MDDUS are indemnified for any acts of omission or commission which result in harm to a person while under their care or treatment. All such claims for damages will be dealt with by MDDUS in the normal way.

North American visitors who return home may seek to make a claim for damages in their own jurisdiction, however, we have never, yet, heard of such a case or dealt with one. The prospect of such a claim being accepted by a US court is remote and we believe so unlikely as to be ignored in practice. If there were to be a claim it should be raised here in the United Kingdom.

ACTION: The General Medical Council has a requirement that all doctors maintain adequate indemnity cover whether by membership of an MDO or by an insurance policy. These do not provide for indemnity in North America. Technically therefore, patients from North America should be made aware of that fact before they can properly exercise informed consent. Thus to fully protect oneself against a complaint to the GMC, a doctor or dentist should make these patients aware that MDO indemnity does not extend to actions raised in their jurisdiction. If in any doubt contact the Advisory Service at MDDUS.