Legal Issues Surrounding First Aid

First aid is the initial care given to a sick or injured person before more formal medical
assistance is applied. The goal of first aid is to intervene actively to prevent further
damage, to provide life support, and to begin effective treatment of the victim\'s
condition, to minimize injury and prevent death. Although first aid is not a substitute for
medical care, those trained in first aid are able to assess the nature and the extent of an
emergency and determine the best course of action to take until professional medical
help arrives.
The need for training in first aid is evident, considering that injury is the fourth leading
cause of death. Falls are the most common cause of injury, but motor vehicle accidents
are the most lethal, accounting for 22 percent of injury deaths.
An important thing to know when dealing with a first aid situation is to be up to date as
far as procedures are concerned. Procedures like slapping a choking person on the back,
putting iodine on a wound, cutting an X on a snake bite, putting ointment on burns, or
using a tourniquet to stop bleeding are old, out dated procedures and have been replaced
by new ones from the Red Cross association. If you decide to administer first aid, be sure
you are familiar with current procedures.
First aid begins with a scene survey. Before approaching a victim, a survey of the area
is necessary to determine if conditions surrounding the incident may place the victim and
the rescuer in danger. Next, the primary survey will determine if lifesaving procedures
must be immediately performed to save the victim\'s life. The primary survey involves
checking the ABC\'s: A: Is the airway opened and the victim\'s neck stabilized? B: Is the
patient breathing? C: Is the victim\'s blood circulating? Is there a pulse? Or is there
active bleeding?
Lifesaving procedures include cardiopulmonary resuscitation , which may be needed to
provide basic life support when a victim has no pulse and is not breathing. The Heimlich
maneuver aids choking victims by forcing ejection of obstructing material from the
windpipe. The severity of spinal cord injuries has decreased 30-45 percent due to
awareness that the neck must be stabilized before moving the accident victim. External
bleeding is controlled by direct pressure and elevation of the bleeding site.
The secondary survey is a total body examination, a pulse check, respiration count, and
observation of skin conditions. The only outward sign of severe medical problems, such
as cardiac diseases, stroke, or internal bleeding, may be shock. Those in shock will have
pale, cool, and clammy skin, a rapid and weak pulse, more than 20 respirations per
minute, weakness, and confused behavior. Treatment involves minimizing body heat
loss, elevating the legs without disturbing the rest of the body, and getting help as quickly
as possible.
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 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 a 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 are physically unable to continue care.
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.
Some well-meaning