FEARS OF FIRST AID – GETTING SUED
Ever worried about it?... DON’T!
If you have attended an ACTWell course then you are aware that our primary focus is on ‘removing the fear in First Aid’.
One of the greatest fears that first aiders face is getting into legal trouble if they make a mistake, or are not successful.
“…there are no reported cases of people being sued for doing first aid whether they are untrained, trained, paramedics, nurses or doctors.” … Now hopefully that already puts your anxiety at ease. If not, then READ ON.
On more than half of occasions where CPR is required, it is not in progress when emergency services arrive on scene. But there is approximately a 10% drop in chances of survival for every minute CPR is delayed. So when the paramedics (and firefighters) arrive, their efforts are often fruitless. Any chance the casualty had has diminished at a rapid rate as their brain was starved of vital blood and oxygen supply. Even if a casualty did survive without ‘early CPR’, they would almost certainly have permanent brain injuries, and no ‘quality of life’.
In a best-case scenario, the ambulance arrives after 5 minutes. In that time, without CPR the casualty’s chance of survival, which is already not great, has now halved. After approximately 4 mins without adequate blood and oxygen supply, the tissues in the brain begin to die, and permanent injuries become increasingly likely. So why didn’t we start CPR earlier?!!!
Fear… fear of getting it wrong… fear of making it worse… fear of infection and of doing mouth to mouth… fear of injuring the casualty… fear of legal consequences…
These are the common fears people tell us about in our courses. I can help eliminate all of them for you.
Lets talk legal consequences first. I will put up another couple of posts later this week about some of the other common fears and misconceptions of first aiders.
“…parliaments have gone to great lengths to try and reassure ‘good Samaritan’s’ that they are not at legal risk.”
People make mistakes. All the time. Every time I have performed CPR I have made some mistakes. I often think to myself “my hands aren’t in the right spot… I’ve completely lost count… am I pushing hard enough?... I’m not letting the chest expand properly… oh, I just felt another rib go…” If I don’t perform CPR, they are simply not going to wake up, so none of this is going to the outcome to the casualty. What might change the outcome is putting these concerns aside and starting CPR.
The risk to rescuers in a first aid situation is next to zero. What it all boils down to is intent… and a little bit towards negligence. Now in a first aid situation, intent is pretty clear. You are trying to help the person, and so your intent is good. Stick within the boundaries of what you competently do, and don’t leave your casualty if you’ve decided to try and help.
Let’s say you were involved in a car accident, you didn’t mean for it happen, but you were at fault. The accident caused injuries, and you were not paying adequate attention to the road when the accident occurred. You could be found negligent, and there is certainly some risk that legal consequences could arise from your actions.
Now let’s say that you were a rescuer at the same incident… not the driver of the vehicle at fault. You didn’t cause it. You are just there to help. You pull someone out of the vehicle because you aren’t sure whether they are breathing, and you think CPR might be needed. It turns out they are breathing on their own, and when you remove them from the vehicle they regain consciousness. The casualty has spinal injuries, and never walks again. Tragic. But they are alive. You are worried about your actions, and whether removing them from the vehicle caused any further harm… you ask yourself “what is going to happen to me now?”
Nothing. You didn’t cause the accident, or the injuries. You will almost certainly be praised by anyone you discuss it with. Your actions could have been truly life saving, if only for ensuring that the casualty’s airway was opened allowing them to breathe on their own and assisting them to regain consciousness. The likelihood that moving them exacerbated the injury is not high, and should not be of concern. No one is going to question whether that was the right thing to do, and if they did, the answer is “YES”. You needed to establish if they required CPR. Life over limb. Congratulations, your decision and actions were brave, and could have helped keep the casualty alive.
Please Canberra, be confident enough to help someone who needs it. Back yourself, and do what you can. Your good intentions may save a life, and they won’t be challenged.
Dr Michael Eburn, an expert in Australian Emergency Law, writes the attached article. He states that “If you’re prepared to drive a car, you should not be afraid of the legal risks of rendering first aid assistance to a stranger.” His realistic and pragmatic approach to emergency law, and is the reason I so confidently tell all my clients not to be afraid of helping someone.
Be Somebody’s Hero!