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The California CPR Debacle: Good Samaritan Laws Protect People Who Try To Save Lives

You have no doubt heard about the California assisted-care facility that forbade its staff from performing emergency lifesaving measures on residents.  As a result of this dangerous policy, 87 year-old resident, Lorraine Bayless, was left to die on the floor of the cafeteria while staff (including at least one nurse) refused to perform CPR. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/04/cpr-refusal-woman-dies/1961407/)

While I will leave to others the important debate about the loss of community and caring in our society, I do take the opportunity to point out that in most States, bystanders who choose to help by performing CPR in an emergency situation are protected from lawsuit liability.  Laws like this not only promote selfless, community intervention, but they also put lie to the ridiculous, overused fallback that “I didn’t act because I was afraid I would get sued.”

Virginia’s Good Samaritan law is a good example.  Contained at Virginia Code Section 8.01-225, the law plainly provides that:  

Any person who, in good faith, renders emergency care or assistance, without compensation, to any ill, or injured person at the scene of an accident, fire, or      any life-threatening emergency, or en route therefrom to any hospital, medical clinic, or doctor’s office shall not be liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions resulting from the rendering of such care or assistance.

In other words, if you come upon a scene like the one that occurred in California, and you choose to try to save another’s life, you can feel free to do so without worrying about “being sued.”  

If you have read this blog’s entries over time, I am hopeful that you will begin to see that negligence laws are designed to make our society safer, and that when properly applied, they further that goal.  Good Samaritan laws are one example of many such principles that are ingrained into our law, and into our public policy, to make society safer.