Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"I Only Work Here, I Don't Do CPR"

By Craig

By now you have probably heard the sad story of the 87-year-old woman who died while a bystander refused to perform CPR on her. And no, the bystander wasn't her ex-husband.

Actually, the bystander was reported to be a nurse at an independent living facility for seniors. Although the nurse called 911 she refused to render any direct aid to the woman in distress because it was against the policy of her employer. This was despite the fact that the 911 operator pleaded with the nurse to perform CPR, warned her that the woman would probably die if she didn't intervene and offered to coach her through the CPR process.

I think the policy of the facility and the nurse's unwillingness to run afoul of her employer is a tragic example of a larger problem. Whether it be texting or talking on a cell phone while driving or refusing to stop for a pedestrian who is in the crosswalk, people are unwilling to inconvenience themselves for the safety of others. I guess it's too much bother to delay firing off that email response until after one is through speeding down the road or it's too inconvenient to arrive a minute later than you otherwise would have because you stopped to let someone cross the street. Never mind the fact that these drivers are jeopardizing the safety of everyone around them. They can't be bothered with obeying the law. In other words, it's not convenient.

Sure, it's a major inconvenience to have to look for a new job if you get fired from the one you have for failure to follow the employer's policy but wouldn't you gladly suffer that inconvenience in exchange for saving someone's life? Besides, if you did get fired because you broke the rules in order to try to save someone's life I suspect you might get plenty of other job offers. Maybe even some of them for a better job.

Knowing the law and how the legal system works, there will probably be no further repercussions for the nurse and her employer. It is true, there is no legal obligation on the part of a stranger to come to the rescue of someone who is in distress. And if indeed the facility in question was nothing more than an apartment building that happened to house seniors, then an employee of the landlord probably owes no legal duty to render first aid or assistance to a resident. And even if you got over that hurdle there is still the problem of causation as no one can say for sure whether intervention on the part of the nurse would have saved the woman's life. And lastly there is the problem of damages (assuming the heirs of the woman sued for wrongful death) because in the cold, hard calculus of how the law compensates for the loss of a life the life expectancy of an 87-year-old is not that long and her future earning capacity is probably nil.

So sadly, this callous act of unquestioning obedience to the rules and not wanting to suffer any personal inconvenience will go unredressed and unpunished and the culture of "me, myself and I first" will have triumphed over "let's look out for one another."

I can only hope that should I ever suffer a heart attack while crossing the street the people passing by won't be too busy texting to put down their cell phones and render assistance or choose to drive around my prostrate body in order not to be late to wherever it is they may be going.