Ready, willing, and able to help
On casino floors, automated external defibrillators, and the need to train many people in emergency aid in the expectation that many will freeze
According to local news reports from KLAS-TV and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a casino patron was left slumped over a blackjack table last April for more than 15 minutes without attention. When someone finally checked on him and discovered he was in cardiac arrest, "Wynn employees then attempted to render him aid with a defibrillator, the lawsuit alleges, but the employees were not trained to use the machine".
■ Unsurprisingly, the incident has made news because the family of the deceased has filed a lawsuit against the casino. If someone experiences a medical emergency and others around them render aid unsuccessfully, that's one thing. It might be a tragedy, but it isn't a cause of action. We have Good Samaritan laws to protect the aid-givers for just such reasons: Sometimes, the aid just isn't enough. That's life (or death, such as the case may be).
■ But it is another problem altogether if people haven't been prepared with even the most obvious of training protocols. This is a problem both at a population level and at the very specific site level.
■ Ideally, any group of five people anywhere should contain at least one person trained in CPR and the use of an AED. If you don't have the two hours or so required to take the full course, you can watch the American Heart Association's video crash courses in less than three minutes.
■ That there wasn't a single competent person anywhere in the gaming area of a Vegas casino screams of gross neglect. Many actually talk the user through the process from start to finish, so the amount of actual training required is practically nil. A reasonably competent 12-year-old could operate an AED -- which is the entire point. Lack of training in a high-traffic place of public accommodation is inexcusable.
■ Perhaps it will be found that the aid rendered was competent. Perhaps a court case will uncover that the employees had, in fact, been adequately trained. The public does need to realize that people often freeze in an emergency, so even people who have been trained in providing assistance may find themselves paralyzed by the moment. That's exactly why the ideal circumstances call for having the highest possible level of training among the population at large: If half the people are going to freeze in the moment, then twice as many people need to be trained.
■ It might be even worse than that: One paper concluded that only 10% to 15% of people react with calm and quick thinking in an emergency. The good news, though, is that those numbers can be enough, as long as enough of them are ready, willing, and able to do what's required.
■ Most every decent person should be willing to help in an emergency, and even under the worst of assumptions, at least one in ten ought to prove mentally "ready". So the problem to be faced -- for all of us -- is how to ensure that the maximum possible number are able. And if you're operating a place where the public visits in large numbers, society has a very reasonable expectation that you'll do your part to invest in maximizing those abilities.
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