Tuesday, 8 May 2007

I have a dilemma

I was driving home from the hospital last night and there’s a couple of lorries in the lanes ahead of me. They both put on their hazard lights and slow right down. I slow down too and move to overtake them. When I pull out into the overtaking lane, I see why they were slowing down.

Up ahead there’s been an accident. A silver car is resting against the central reservation with its bonnet all smashed up. There are no emergency services around.

I have a dilemma.

Should I drive on, like the rest of the traffic, or should I stop and see if anyone is hurt and try and help?

One voice was saying: “Michael, you have no experience of handling out-of-hospital emergencies, you have no equipment AT ALL. All you have is your bare hands, what use do you think you can be? Stopping would be pointless.”

Another voice was saying, “Look, you may not have been trained in this kind of thing but you are a doctor and you have managed trauma in A&E, you know the basics and you’ll undoubtedly know more than anyone else there. You should stop and try to help.”

I’m getting closer to the car now, I can see a man standing near the car. I make up my mind.

I stop.

“Hello, my name’s Michael, I’m a doctor on my way home from work. Are you OK? Is anyone hurt?”

It turns out that the man and his girlfriend were both fine. They were obviously shaken up, but they were both out of the car, walking around and talking to me. After a couple of minutes, the police arrive on the scene and I decide to leave and take myself home to bed.

What made me stop was the fact that IF there had been someone hurt, there MIGHT have been something I could have done to help. If there was the possibility I could have saved someone’s life and I’d driven on and ignored them, then, I would have felt so guilty that I would not have been able to sleep at night.

Last night I slept like a log.


Jo said...

Good on you for stopping! I'm a first aider, and I always wonder what I would do if I was first on the scene at an accident - I'm not too proud to admit that I probably wouldn't be much good apart (if CPR wasn't needed) from calling an ambulance... But the thought that I *could* have done something and I didn't would probably tear me up.

Anonymous said...

I know it sounds sad, but I carry a pair of gloves in my wallet. The way I look at it is, if I come across something when I'm walking along then I am going to have to help (I just wouldn't feel right otherwise), and I would much rather do it with gloves on - need to try and protect me after all!

luna said...

You'd be surprised,even the dippiest airhead can come up with some helpful reflex when it comes to life and death.
If they'd been badly hurt you'd at least have been able to stop them getting worse.
Sometimes it helps just to redirect the traffic.

Spirit of 1976 said...

I had a discussion with a nurse about this once. She said she was on her way home and came across an accident.

She felt torn, because she knew she should go and help, but she'd just picked up a takeaway pizza from the best pizzeria in town, and knew if she helped then her pizza would go cold.

So she decided to finish the pizza and then go and help.

Ruairidh said...

Hehe yeah it must be one hell of an ethics question!

I think it's a case of knowing what you can and can't do.

You're a doctor so you're just a level below God on the Life/Death thing!

Sarah said...

Some times people involved in an accident just need a hand to hold, shoulder to cry on etc. Many non medical people would be too afraid to stop for fear of what they would see. You guys have seen it and it holds less fear for you. To lean into a car, see lots of blood and say 'you alright honey, hang in there, docs are on their way, anyways, did you see the footy tonight?.......' it makes ALL the difference, believe me.
Sarah x