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Must You Do It?

By: James R. Davis

You come upon a motorcycle accident and find that the downed rider is not breathing. You are First-aid trained and know how to perform CPR. Must you do so?

I cannot speak to the legal issues other than to say that there is no law that requires you to put your life at risk - ever. Good Samaritan laws are designed to give you certain legal protections should something happen as a result of your good faith efforts that result in damage or death to the victim - in other words, if you tried to help but you do something wrong (though reasonable) you cannot be found guilty of 'intentional wrong doing' - you are legally provided some 'protection' to encourage you to do just that - to try to help.

Going back to the question: MUST you perform CPR if you know how and it is apparent that it is needed? Let me bring this into clear focus for you: You find someone that is DEAD and believe you could revive him using CPR. Must you try?

My OPINION is that nothing - no law, no moral obligation, no 'contract', and no force of nature - forces you to perform CPR. HOWEVER, it appears to me that there is a legal requirement that if you start to perform CPR then YOU MUST CONTINUE performing until you are relieved by another person or CANNOT any longer do so!!!!!!!!

Furthermore, if you have received more than casual training (more than simply receiving a certificate that states that you attended a couple of hours of training once every ten years) there may well be a legal duty for you to try, but for virtually everybody else, no such duty exists.

If it is a family member or a close friend or a child, and you have reason to believe that person is otherwise healthy (not, for example, a high-risk candidate for HIV), then you may well decide to perform CPR in an effort to revive and save that person's life. If, on the other hand, the victim is a stranger to you or you have some question about his health, then 'protect yourself - FIRST' should govern your actions. 'Yourself', I hasten to add, includes your FAMILY.

Allow me, please, to stretch this consideration a bit. If you happen upon a motorcyclist who appears to be a victim of a motorcycle accident and that person is not wearing a helmet, you have EVERY RIGHT to conclude that since he is so cavalier about his safety when riding a motorcycle he may well also be cavalier about wearing condoms. Maybe that's true, and maybe it's not true, but you have the right to decide NOT TO ADMINISTER CPR for whatever reason you choose, including that one.

Because if you begin to perform CPR you then are OBLIGATED to continue, it is not just a matter of deciding to risk your life and health to do so, it is also a matter of deciding to risk your economic well-being. When you elect to perform CPR you are 'betting the farm' and your family lives there with you, no?

What this all means is that *THIS* individual should NOT BE COUNTED ON to perform CPR because the odds are he will not do so.

So sue me. (Actually, the odds are much lower that you will do so if I DO NOT perform CPR than if I do and that is worth thinking about.)

On the other hand, there are two parts to CPR - Cardio and Pulmonary. Even if you elect to NOT do the Pulmonary part there is lots of evidence that doing the Cardio part by itself can save lives. Chest compressions, in other words. That, I can be counted on to perform. BUT, I strongly suggest that if you decide to do the same you NEVER, NOT ONCE, refer to what you did as CPR. Call it chest compressions and there will be no doubt. Call it CPR and you may well end up in court.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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