Self-Protection versus Rescue - Where do obligations lie?

Based on this pit thread, I propose the following scenario:

You are a school teacher, CPR trained and certified, supervising kids during recess. A child suddenly drops to the ground, in full cardiac arrest.

You rush to the scene. You do not have a mouthguard, or surgical/medical gloves.

You are aware that, in your school, out of 400 students, two of them are HIV positive, 4 of them have Hepatitis, and 5 more have various communicable diseases.

You choose not to perform CPR because of the risks involved.

Did you do the right thing?

(p.s.: this isn’t a scenario pulled out of my ass - an elementary school I worked at had a 400 hundred student count. We had two HIV positive kids in the school, but we were not allowed to know who, of course, due to privacy issues and fear issues. We also had about a dozen other kids with communicable disease, including hepatitis and herpes.)

I suppose I should specify that while you know these numbers, you do not know the identity of the children, obviously, for safety and privacy reasons.

No, if you choose not to perform CPR you are making a justifiable choice, but it is not the right thing. The right thing is to perform CPR. The even more right thing is to have the appropriate safety equipment with you at all times, even if you must provide it from your own resources.

I spent a couple of years working for an ambulance company (part time) as a driver and “first responder”. (Disclaimer: I was not an EMT, only trained in basic first aid). One of the things drilled into us was: “It’s not your emergency. It’s theirs”. I don’t know if this justifies anything, it’s just what we were taught. To answer the OP; In a practical sense, I think your obligations are to yourself, first. But when face to face with a problem? It’s a personal choice, I guess.

FWIW: When faced with a collapsed (apparent) drug OD in the bus station one night (without protective guards), I ignored protocol and immediately began CPR without waiting for an ambu-bag (ours was missing for some reason). I’ll leave it to the SDMB to decide whether my actions were stupid, or humane. I’m still OK. (She didn’t survive, but at least I tried)


Well, morally I suppose preserving your own life is a very high obligation. Not supreme, but very high.

That being said, I would save the kid. There is no finer thing (IMHO) than to save life. Not that I would question whatever decision made by the person on the scene.

This is an interesting question. And to add to the moral delemna, let me add:

You are the the sole parent of five children. To what degree does that “push” you toward preserving your own life as opposed to attempting to save another?

Me? I fear that I’d jump in and help without weighing the consequences. But without actually being in the situation, who knows?

Is this an ethics question, a law question, or both? I read the OP as asking about ethics only, but I’m not sure.

Ethics only. :slight_smile:

We had people in the Pit Thread calling for blood over people who wouldn’t help. I think it’s easy to say “I’d do it!” until you’re faced with it yourself.

Not a definitive answer, but a few thoughts:

I wonder what the point is of being CPR trained and certified if you’re not going to actually do the CPR if the need arises.

If performing CPR/artificial respiration is part of your job, I would think that (1) you’re obligated to do it, (2) your employer is obligated to provide protective equipment (a mouth guard or whatever), and (3) you are responsible, as part of your job, for making sure you have that equipment handy when it’s needed.

If you give CPR, there’s a chance you’ll catch something and seriously endanger your own health, and there’s a chance you will save the person’s life. It would be really helpful to have some idea just how big those probabilities are. If the chance of catching something deadly is 1 in a million, it seems a lot more reprehensible to refuse to give CPR than if it’s 1 in 5.

I got CPR training because the offered it at work one day instead of sitting at my desk doing IT type thingies. Someone came in and taught us CPR and first aid, with about 15 minutes spent on universal precations and how to properly take off gloves after you’ve touched someone, and we took a little test which contained an entire section on universal precuations. Then I got a card that says I’m certified in basic first aid and CPR.

I am not touching someone unless I have gloves, and I’m not doing rescue breathing without a mask. You can call me selfish if you want, but I don’t know what that stranger has, and I’m not risking catching it. If that means there’s a delay of a minute or so before I can start CPR, then that’s how it goes. We have an AED at work (which I’m trained on also) and in the bag for it are masks, gloves and a razor (because sometimes you gotta shave the hairy chest before you can attach the pads). In my desk, there’s gloves and a mask.

The AHA may not say that the gloves and mask are required, but the certainly push pretty strongly for them, and they are a personal requirement of mine.

Former lifeguard speaking here.

I’d gladly perform lip-lock on a total stranger if it means saving their life.

I’ve been exposed to a stranger’s blood and had to go through the HepB/HepC/HIV screening and appropriate vaccinations, etc. for about a year, fortunately nothing bad turned up. Contracting something really bad via mouth fluids is much much less likely than through blood contact.

I had this conversation with most of my doctors since I was first certified on CPR. Every single one said that the mouth protection device is overblown insurance company panic. Most of them have performed CPR and exchanged fluids (blood, etc.) in the process and had to go through the screening and vaccinations several times. They said they just accepted it as an expected risk in their profession, and one of the reasons they can justify ginormous paychecks.

This is all anecdotal, of course, but it’s made me determined.