Recently, emergency room physicians have been calling for the public to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they don’t already know it.  And furthermore, if we don’t learn to do it properly, do something, for god’s sake!  In cardiac arrest situations that occur outside a hospital setting, only 25 per cent are given CPR.  (It’s not clear to me if they took into account that there were actually bystanders in those out-of-hospital situations, though.)

In a position paper, they recommend bystanders who don’t know CPR should at least perform chest compressions, even if they’re not sure whether they’re doing them right, because doing anything when someone is undergoing cardiac arrest is better than doing nothing. Remember, after all: cardiac arrest means the heart has stopped beating – the person is effectively dead, so you can’t possibly do anything worse to the person.  This made a lot of sense to me.  I couldn’t imagine bearing witness to someone undergoing cardiac arrest and just walking by, although I certainly never envisioned myself performing CPR either…  So, FuBu and I have been thinking of formally learning CPR.

A few days after this report came out, I then read about an elderly woman who was visiting her dying husband at Greater Niagara General Hospital.  She fell and broke her hip in the hospital lobby.  So if this happened to you in a hospital, you’d think at least it happened in the right place.  Instead, this poor woman was ignored by hospital staff (including ER nurses) and told to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital!  Whaaaa? 

Attention ER doctors: pot calling the kettle black!

Hospital officials explained the incident away by saying there was some mis-communication and staff were perhaps following old procedure.  Just as doctors tell us it is our moral obligation and a social expectation to assist someone undergoing cardiac arrest, is it not equally common sense to stop to help an elderly woman who has fallen?  I don’t care what the “procedure” is, who just walks away?!?!

I still have a lot to say about moral obligations, some that have preyed on my own guilty conscience and raised questions about societal accountability (don’t worry, I didn’t let anyone die).  But it would make this post painfully long and I still have to prepare for a meeting out in Misery-ssauga tomorrow morning.  I will have to come back to this at a later time.  Talk amongst yourselves.

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