Medical Bytes, Thailand No 6: Is there Good Samaritan protection in Thailand?
Originally Published 27th Feb, 2020. Republished with permission on June 3rd, 2023.
1. An uneventful morning cappuccino at 10.00am in Pattaya was suddenly interrupted by my wife; “there’s been an accident”. I ran up to the Soi Buakhao, Pattaya Sai Song intersection where a mixed group of Farangs and Thais had gathered around a poor Farang victim lying on the road.
2. The 78-year-old Irish Expat was prostrate on the tarmac in the middle of the intersection, one of the busiest and dirtiest in Pattaya, where the stench of Asia is ever present. Upon reaching the center of the crowd I asked his name, he replied; in Pattaya my name is Irish! He had been hit by a car that pushed him off his motorbike. He was not wearing a helmet. Examination of his neck was Ok and he had voluntary movements in his arms and left leg. At that moment, a policeman arrived. Despite my wife’s protestations that I was a doctor, we were all told to stand back and wait for the emergency nurses that had been called to attend from the Pattaya Public Hospital located only one block away. As the crowd moved back, Irish’s right leg became visible to the officer. Irish had sustained a laceration from behind his right knee down through the inside of his calf into his ankle, where the wing mirror, that caused the laceration, was embedded. A little shocked, the officer moved on to direct the congested traffic.
3. My wife warned me not to intervene. A Thai in the crowd had taken his belt off and was about to wrap it tightly around Irish’s thigh. I stopped him. I then removed the wing mirror and attached motorbike that trapped his leg. His flesh was torn and his calf muscles exposed, as was his ankle bone. While we waited for the nurses, the manager from Witherspoons ran to the accident with a rope, also to stop the bleeding. I advised her not to tie off his leg. Still no nurses. Irish had been on the tarmac for 45 minutes with an exposed wound. The temperature was rising, as was the heat in the road.
4. Eventually the two “emergency nurses” strolled around the corner, took a brief look at his leg, then directed their attention on his neck, with one holding his head in a supportive position. This occurred despite my wife informing them, in Thai, that there was no accidental damage to his cervical spine. The other nurse called for an ambulance. After 15 minutes or so the nurses just left, ostensibly because they couldn’t speak English and they had no medical equipment, which they didn’t. Ignoring the developing crisis, the policeman remained busy with the traffic.
5. I called for bandages. It was now imperative that we remove Irish from the hot tarmac. I dressed his wound and four of us moved him to the shade over the path, outside the local 7/11. My wife placed a pillow under his head in an effort to make him more comfortable. We waited for the ambulance, which took an eternity, well 30 minutes. The officer said nothing as he continued to direct the traffic.
6. On seeing that Irish was a Farang, the Ambulance Officer refused to take him to the Public Hospital, only 150m down the road. Instead, he called the Private Hospital Service to send an ambulance
7. 1 hour later, the private ambulance arrived. In the interval, Irish’s wife arrived. He had no private insurance and the estimated cost for his treatment was 600,000B. As the ambulance left, I wondered if Irish would survive this ordeal. His dotage was apparent, his wound had been left exposed in filthy conditions and he had been on the tarmac for far too long. Fortunately, his thigh had not been ligated. There was no arterial bleeding, just venous oozing from the torn flesh. Therefore, there was no need for ligation to stop arterial bleeding. Considering the time interval, if his thigh had been ligated, he may have lost that leg.
8. This incident prompted me to become a volunteer Royal Thai Policeman. In that role, in emergencies, I am empowered to act. But, to protect my interests, I was advised to video all interventions. When Farangs are involved, Thais have the capacity to construct the most outrageous views on accidents. And, there is no Good Samaritan protection in Thailand.
This article was originally written by Doc Martyn for Buriram Medical Club. His statements and opinions are entirely his own.