Fear of being sued has caused reluctance for people to become rescuers in emergency situations. However, initial rescuers are rarely sued and in most emergencies you are not legally required to provide first aid.
Good Samaritan Law – provides protection against lawsuits for persons who are acting in good faith, while providing reasonable first aid. These laws are not a substitute for competent first aid or for staying within the scope of rescuer training. Laws vary from state to state, and it is important to become aware of your state’s guidelines.
Although laws vary, Good Samaritan protection generally applies when the rescuer is:
- Acting in an emergency situation
- Acting in good faith, indicating that he or she has good intentions
- Acting without compensation
- Not guilty of malicious misconduct or gross negligence toward the patient (intentionally NOT follow established medical guidelines
Duty to Act – requires an individual to provide first aid when they have a legal duty. If a rescuer does not have a legal duty to provide care he or she is not required to provide first aid.
Duty to act may imply in the following situations:
- When it is a requirement of employment. If you are designated as responsible for providing first aid to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and you are called to emergency, you are required to provide first aid. (some examples of occupations that may require a duty to act include, but are not limited to: park rangers, athletic trainers, law enforcement officers, life guards, teachers)
- When a pre-existing responsibility to a person exists. If you have a pre-existing relationship and are responsible for a person, for example a parent, you must give first aid if they need it (some examples of pre-existing relationships are parent/child, driver/passenger).
Consent- permission from a responsive (alert) person allowing you to provide care.
Implied Consent - when a patient is unconscious, it is understood that if the person were alert and responsive, he or she would request and allow you to provide care.
Abandonment - when a rescuer initiates care and fails to continue to provide care until EMS or a second rescuer takes over.
Negligence - when you have a duty to respond to an emergency situation and you fail to provide care or give in appropriate care which causes injury or harm.
Universal Precautions - wearing gloves, gowns, masks, and other protective devices every time you provide care in situations where you may come into contact with bodily fluids.
Clinical Death - when a patient’s breathing and heartbeat stops. There is a high likelihood that patients who are clinically dead for less than 6 minutes can be revived with little to no cellular damage.
Biological Death - when a patient’s breathing and heartbeat stops. Persons who are clinically dead for 10 minutes or more may have irreversible damage to brain cells and tissues. Reviving a patient is not likely, however it is not impossible.
- Rescuers should never enter unsafe situations. If your safety or that of the patient’s is at risk, do not attempt to provide care. Instead call 911 and wait for EMS support to arrive.
- Using personal protective devices, such as gloves, masks, gowns, etc… can reduce your exposure to infectious diseases.
- States have Good Samaritan laws in place to provide protection for rescuers who are acting in good faith, in situations where the rescuer does not have a legal duty to provide care.
Hurting a Patient
- Patients who are clinically dead are helped when provided care and not often made worse with rescue efforts.
Inability to Save Patient
- Rescuers should focus on providing care to the best of their ability. Basic life support efforts can improve a patient’s chance of survival. Rescuers who have provided care in traumatic situations may feel overwhelming emotions. If a rescuer continues to experience depressed like symptoms it is important to seek support from an outside resource.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment should be used by medical professional, when available, prior to providing care. This equipment is designed to minimize and/or prevent exposure to infectious diseases and bodily fluids.
- Always use when providing care
- Check for rips, tears or damage before providing care
- Remove any jewelry that may damage or cause tears
- If you have a latex allergy use alternative vinyl or nitrile gloves
- Remove gloves using skin to skin and glove to glove method
- Using gloved hand, pinch the wrist of the other gloved hand
- Pull the glove off while turning inside out, place in palm of gloved hand
- Using bare hand place fingers inside wrist of gloved hand and remove inside out, collecting the gloves inside each other
- Dispose of gloves in an appropriate container
Rescue mask/Face shield
- Always use when providing rescue ventilation
- Mask or shield should have a one way valve to prevent exposure to bodily fluids
- Dispose of mask/shield in an appropriate container
- Use when working in emergency situations where exposure to bodily fluids is likely
- Dispose of contaminated gown in an appropriate container