2.18 Legal and Ethical Considerations
• DUTY TO ACT
No one is required to render first aid under normal circumstances. Even a physician could ignore a stranger suffering a heart attack if he chose to do so.
Exceptions include situations where a person’s employment designates the rendering of first aid as a part of described job duties. Examples include lifeguards, law enforcement officers, park rangers, and safety officers in the industry.
A duty to provide first aid also exists where an individual has presumed responsibility for another person’s safety, as in the case of a parent-child or driver-passenger relationship.
While in most cases there is no legal responsibility to provide first aid care to another person, there is a very clear responsibility to continue care once you start. You cannot start first aid and then stop unless the victim no longer needs your attention, other first aiders take over the responsibility from you or you physically cannot continue care.
• NEED FOR CONSENT
In every instance where first aid is to be provided, the victim’s consent is required. It should be obtained from every conscious, mentally competent adult. The consent may be either oral or written.
Permission to render first aid to an unconscious victim is implied and a first aider should not hesitate to treat an unconscious victim.
Consent of a parent or guardian is required to treat a child, however, emergency first aid necessary to maintain life may be provided without such consent.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT A VICTIM may REFUSE FIRST-AID CARE AND IN THESE INSTANCES YOU MUST RESPECT THE VICTIM’S DECISION. YOU CANNOT FORCE CARE ON A PERSON WHO DOES NOT WANT IT … REGARDLESS OF THEIR CONDITION!
• LEGAL CONCERNS
Some well-meaning people hesitate to provide first aid because they are concerned about being sued.
This need not be a concern!
Legislators in almost every state in the country have passed GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS which are intended to protect good people who offer first aid help to others.
Most of the Good Samaritan Acts are very similar in their content and usually provide two basic requirements which must be met in order for the first aider to be protected by their provisions:
o The first aider must not deliberately cause harm to the victim.
o The first aider must provide the level & type of care expected of a reasonable person with the same amount of training & in similar circumstances.
THERE SHOULD BE LITTLE, IF ANY, CONCERN ABOUT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES INHERENT IN PROVIDING FIRST AID.
YOU NEED ONLY HAVE THE VICTIM’S CONSENT AND THEN OFFER THE LEVEL OF CARE FOR WHICH YOU ARE QUALIFIED.
3.0 Your First Aid Kit
Everyone should have a well-stocked first-aid kit handy at home, in the car and in the workplace.
The contents of your kit will vary depending upon the number of people it is designed to protect as well as special circumstances where it will be used.
For example, a first aid kit in a factory where there may be danger of flying debris getting into the eye should certainly have a sterile eyewash solution in its kit. If a family member is a known diabetic, your kit at home should have a glucose or sugar solution.
When assembling your first aid kit, whether for the home, car, or at work, consider possible injuries you are likely to encounter and then select kit contents to treat those conditions.
It’s also important to check your kit periodically to restock items that have been used and to replace items that are out of date.
It is also advisable at home and at work to have both a stationary kit, stored in a cabinet or drawer, as well as a compact portable kit that can be taken quickly to the site of an emergency.
Recommended Contents for a First Aid Kit
[Modify to suit your particular needs]
• Activated Charcoal (for poisoning emergencies)
• Adhesive strip bandages – assorted sizes
• Adhesive tape
• Alcohol – rubbing 70%
• Alcohol wipes
• Antibiotic ointment
• Baking soda
• Calamine lotion
• Chemical ice packs
• Chemical hot packs
• Cotton balls
• Cotton swabs
• Decongestant tablets & spray
• Diarrhea medication
• Disposable latex or vinyl gloves
• Elastic bandages
• Face mask for CPR
• First aid guide
• Gauze pads – various sizes
• Hot-water bottle
• Household ammonia
• Hydrocortisone cream .5%
• Hydrogen Peroxide
• Hypoallergenic tape
• Ice bag
• Insect repellent
• Insect sting swabs
• Meat tenderizer (for insect bites)
• Non-adhering dressings [Telfa]
• Oil of Cloves
• Over-the-counter pain medication [aspirin]
• Paper & pencil
• Paper drinking cups
• Roller guaze – self adhering
• Safety pins
• Space blanket
• Sam splint
• Sugar or glucose solution
• Syrup of Ipecac
• Thermometer – oral & rectal
• Tongue blades
• Triangular bandages
• Waterproof tape