I have been wondering lately about my legal liability when it comes to using CPR/AED. My career training included the requirement to become certified in First Aid and CPR, along with using an AED. So since I was trained it was assumed that I would start a rescue should an emergency arise in my workplace--and my employer would insure, protect, and defend me if there were any lawsuit against me as a result of my trying to save someone.
I am retired now and it isn’t always obvious what legal risk I as a bystander might be taking when trying to help any victim in need of immediate aid. My First Aid certification has expired and although I plan to get fresh info and training in using an AED, I still have questions about my standing if I’m ever put in the position of first responder to an SCA emergency. Here is what I have found out, according to the American Heart Association and other organizations focused on promoting CPR/AED.
If I am in the presence of someone needing help, am I required as a bystander to try and help?
No, you are not required to help if it is not part of your job in the situation to provide first aid.
How do I feel about it ethically if it seems wiser NOT to help someone?
People disagree about this, but as for me personally I would find it extremely difficult to watch someone struggle and/or die “on my watch”. Especially when I have received training in the past. Also, if I am close enough to someone to be the first who can give First Aid, they are probably a friend or relative anyway.
Is there a time when I shouldn’t give CPR or should stop? How long should I keep giving CPR if I start?
Friends or relatives may tell you the person in distress does not want CPR, or you may find a medical bracelet that says do not resuscitate. In this case, respect the bracelet and/or what is being said by the family. Also, if you are in danger or become exhausted, you should stop giving CPR.
What does the law say about my liability if I am sued?
Good news! There are laws in all 50 states called “Good Samaritan Laws”. No lay person has ever been successfully sued for trying CPR because of these laws, and in most states even if they had no training!
So I say, of course get trained and keep your skills up-to-date, but I will do my best to stay cool-headed and make an honest, good faith effort if I have the chance to save a life!