There are a few very common reasons why people do not attempt to rescue a person who is injured, dying, or clinically dead. These fears are the reasons why only 1 out of 10 people will actually help out a person having a cardiac arrest; and there are a staggering 300,000 lethal cardiac arrests each year, most of which could have been prevented. Of the most common reasons for not performing CPR or attempting to rescue a person, an unsafe scene is the only justifiable concern. An icy road with a lot of traffic is an example scenario of an unsafe scene in which a rescue would be very risky to attempt. The best action you can take in such a situation is to call 911 and allow paramedics to secure the scene and attempt a rescue. It is never worth risking your own life to save another life. Be certain to exercise caution and never put your life in jeopardy to perform a rescue.
The other four common fears are liability (lawsuit), contracting disease, doing CPR incorrectly, and hurting the person. These are the four fears that should never keep a person from rescuing, and here is why:
Since the mid- to late-1980s, most states have adopted the Good Samaritan Law, which protects volunteer rescuers from lawsuits for attempting to help a person and injuring the person or causing the person's injury or condition to become worse through treatment. You will certainly want to check your local laws for a clarification on what the law says and allows for as well as what guidelines must be followed to be covered under the law. But fortunately, after this law was put into place, volunteer rescuers need not worry about losing a lawsuit by attempting to help a person in need. In fact, the law even protects medical professionals who volunteer their services as long as they do not go above and beyond the ordinary protocol for helping outside of a hospital.
The fear of disease would be a cause for worry, except it is absolutely preventable. The three ingredients that must all be present in order for a disease to infect a person are the disease itself being present, the rescuer being susceptible to the infection (not having an immunization to the disease), and a route being present for the disease to enter into the rescuer's body (eyes, nose, mouth, injection into skin, absorption into broken skin). If any one of these conditions is absent, the disease or pathogen has no chance of infecting the rescuer. Because we cannot hope to immunize all people against all diseases and we cannot remove all disease from the scene, all we can hope to do is remove all possible routes for the pathogen to enter the body. To protect yourself, you can keep a face shield with a one-way barrier on you at all times to prevent disease from entering while giving rescue breaths. Having supplies in a first-aid kit or in your car's glove box are good options if they are available and easily accessible. Otherwise, you can purchase a key ring face shield with a one-way barrier mask and a small pair of gloves. The packet is small and can fit conveniently on your keys to be with you at all times. If you are in a situation to perform CPR but you do not have a one-way barrier with which to perform rescue breaths, you can always perform hands-only CPR, which can be very effective on its own.
The next fear is that by forgetting the exact numbers for giving breaths and compressions, you will perform CPR incorrectly and hurt the person in cardiac arrest. However, what is important to remember is that numbers need not be exactly correct to perform effective CPR. In fact, as mentioned above, compressions-only CPR is still effective and can help save the life of a person in cardiac arrest. If you have seen a person collapse and he/she is not breathing or responsive, after calling 911, the most important thing you can do for him/her is to start performing fast and hard chest compressions. No matter how fast or how deep, anything is better than leaving the person alone. So even if you cannot recall exact numbers, you should still attempt to help.
Finally, there is the fear that you could possibly hurt / kill the person in need. Once you understand that a person in cardiac arrest is clinically dead, you will see how silly it is to think that you could further hurt of kill a person who is already dead. What CPR does is simply buy time and help delay biological (irreversible) death by keeping oxygen and blood circulating through the body until first responders arrive to hopefully revive the person.
The big idea to take away from this article is that unless the scene itself appears unsafe and your life or well being is in jeopardy by attempting a rescue, there is no good reason not to attempt to help. The worst possible scenario that could occur by attempting to help would be giving chest compressions at the wrong intervals and incorrect depth and once a medical response team arrives, the person is not able to be revived. But this result is actually the same as not doing anything. Therefore, try helping out in some way and you may actually save a life!
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