Stop and Render Aid – We are All Humanitarians

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excerpt from The Rules of Medicine by Sonya Sloan, M.D. (Coming Soon)

STOP AND RENDER AID | WE ARE ALL HUMANITARIANS

hu·man·i·tar·i·an

(h)yo͞oˌmanəˈterēən/

adjective

        1. Concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare. a.k.a. the Good Samaritan 

All I can recall is hearing the screeching metal and smell of burnt tires, it was with a sense of dread that I jumped out of my car, not even looking to see if the automobiles and 18-wheelers behind me on the interstate 45S had come to a full stop. As far as the eye could see there was glass, metal, and pieces of what used to be someone’s car all over the highway. In that moment I was a doctor but also a good Samaritan that knew there were people who needed help. As a resident who had studied for the Texas Medical Jurisprudence exam, I knew what the law said about stopping to render aid for someone in need. But the carnal reaction that ensued was more than an obligation…it was human nature.

I had been traveling for nearly four hours from Dallas to Houston doing 65-85 mph. Yes, I was speeding, but I was keeping up with traffic (or perhaps leading the pack). Nonetheless, as I entered the suburbs of Houston at dusk,  I had an eerie feeling about a pickup truck I had been rolling with when I saw what looked like a beer can in the driver’s hand. Intuitively I slowed down.  No sooner had we crossed the next horizon than I heard one of the worst noises I had ever experienced…SCREECH…BAM! If you have ever heard the sound of metal wrapping around itself at 70 mph on impact, you will never forget it.

A car had stopped in the right lane of the highway in a construction zone with cement barriers on both sides and no exit. The devastation that proceeded was due to the fact that the car was on the downside of a hill which no one could see until it was too late. The pickup truck had slammed into the back of an older sedan at an extremely high speed. The car was carrying a family of five and a half, since the mother was about six months pregnant. With the help of other ‘Good Samaritans’, we removed the family from the car since it was smoking as well as leaking and we had no idea if an explosion would be the next catastrophic event in this already horrible reality.

In legal terms, a good samaritan refers to someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis. Usually, if a volunteer comes to the aid of an injured or ill person who is a stranger, the person giving the aid owes the stranger the favor of being reasonably careful. A person is not obligated by law to do first aid in most states unless it’s part of a job description. In the United States every state has a Good Samaritan Law. As an example of what you have to look forward to as part of your medical responsibility here is how the Texas Good Samaritan Law reads:

Article 6701d, Vernon’s Civil Statutes; Chapter 74, 

Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 74.001

LIABILITY FOR EMERGENCY CARE

(a) a person who in good faith administers emergency care at the scene of an emergency or in a hospital is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.

(b) This section does not apply for care administered: 

    (1) in expectation of remuneration; 

    (2) by a person who was at the scene of the emergency because he or a person he represents as an agent was     soliciting business or seeking to perform a service for remuneration; 

    (3) by a person who regularly administers emergency care in a hospital or emergency room; or 

    (4) by an admitting physician or a treating physician associated by the admitting physician of a patient         bringing a health-care liability claim.

In other words, I was legally obligated to stop and render aid, but more importantly, as a human being there is an innate responsibility to help someone in need. Moreover, if you are in the medical field, you must stop and render aid. Not just because we know what we are doing, or we do it better than others. But because we have in our being something and training something that makes us want to help and provide assistance to anyone and everyone. It’s in the oath we took. It is at the core of our being.  It is human nature. So slow down, use seat belts, go with your first mind, and always be ready, willing, and able to render aid to your fellow human beings, because you never know when or where it may be you on the receiving end of a good samaritan.

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