By Jordan W. Charness
There was a paediatrician who took his job very seriously. He was affiliated with one of the major hospitals and was available to help out when one of his newborn patients needed help. One evening he was called by the hospital and told that he was needed to treat a premature hypoglycaemic newborn. He got into his car and took off for the hospital.
Since he felt that it was a bit of an emergency, the doctor decided to ignore the basic rules of the road and was driving down residential streets at more than twice the legal speed limit. It didn’t take long for a police car to catch up with the doctor and pull him over for speeding.
The doctor argued with the police officer, claiming that he was a doctor on his way to the hospital to deal with an emergency and that the police officer should accompany him with sirens blaring and lights flashing so that he could perhaps save a life. Of course he could not prove his story. The police officer refused to comply with the doctor’s orders.
Instead, the officer explained that doctors have no special immunity and are not allowed to break the laws even if there is an emergency. The doctor argued, and the police officer wrote him a ticket for speeding. This whole episode delayed the doctor’s arrival at the hospital by about half an hour.
As it turned out, the delay did not affect the child, who turned out to be just fine at the end. The doctor, however, refused to pay the ticket, claiming that the police should have helped him get to the hospital and not hindered his attempt to get there as fast as he could.
The hospital’s chief of paediatrics said that although he supported his physician, he did not believe in special treatment for doctors, although he didn’t want the police to delay doctors heading to the hospital for an emergency.
There is no special law that grants doctors the right to speed to a hospital, and certainly not in a private car that does not have any emergency lights and is driven by a doctor who is not specially trained in driving emergency vehicles.
While the doctor may have felt that he was doing the right thing in trying to get to the hospital as quickly as he could to help his patient, he obviously did not think of the fact that speeding in his private car and driving at over double the speed limit could easily have caused a crash which could have injured himself and others on the road.
In addition to causing injuries by his dangerous driving, the doctor might have been forever delayed from getting to the hospital if he had caused a crash resulting in his own death or the death of others.
Nowadays, even emergency vehicles have very specific guidelines that they must follow whenever they break the traffic laws, even in instances when they are allowed to do so. Specially-trained drivers, flashing lights, sirens, officially-recognized emergency vehicles and radio communication with the police are all in place so as to get emergency vehicles where they need to go as quickly as possible.
Private vehicles driven by doctors have none of that. Although it might save a few critical minutes in getting to the hospital, breaking the traffic laws and speeding to try to get there may turn out to be more dangerous than the few extra minutes that the patient will spend in the hospital before the doctor arrives.