When witnessing a medical emergency, many of us have the instinct to rush to provide assistance. However, some people are hesitant to assist because they fear of the legal implications of helping someone who may or may not want to be helped. Therefore, it is important to understand the concept of consent.
There is a general assumption that everyone who appears to need help actually wants it, but that is not always true. In order to provide someone with first aid or medical care, he or she needs to provide permission or consent. After all, physically touching someone who does not want to be touched can be considered assault or battery.
Types of Consent
In the medical field, there are two types of consent: expressed and implied. Expressed consent is communicated either verbally or in written form. Simply put, the victim tells you it is okay to provide assistance. In this case, the victim must be able to understand the situation and communicate clearly in order to provide expressed consent.
When an individual is unable to provide expressed consent, the rescuer must rely on implied consent. Implied consent happens when the rescuer is unable to communicate with the victim. This most often happens because the victim is unconscious, but may also be a result of intoxication, language barriers, mental disorder, or age. With implied consent, there is an assumption that the victim would ask for help if he or she could.
Who Can Consent?
If a victim is not impaired, a rescuer must receive expressed consent before physically touching a victim. This is important for all first aid providers, but it is essential for medical professionals and first responders, including our lifeguards and swim coaches. If a victim isn’t able to provide expressed consent, the rescuer may rely on implied consent.
Safety is always paramount when providing first aid assistance to someone in need. Never put yourself in harm’s way to provide help to someone who won’t take it. In all medical emergency scenarios, calling 9-1-1 should be the first step. Additionally, it is essential to always use personal protective equipment, such as gloves and a breathing barrier, to protect yourself.
Learning Lifesaving Skills
At Premier Aquatics Services, we believe in preparing all of our clients with lifesaving skills. From child swim lessons to American Red Cross CPR Certification, we provide training all year long.
We know how important it is for you and your family to know what to do in the event of an emergency. While younger children should be taught how to call for help, older children can enroll in CPR classes alongside their parents. Click here to learn more or enroll in CPR classes today!
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