T Nation

Giving CPR in the U.S vs. Canada


I'm know there's a few legal-savvy guys on this board, so I'm gonna throw this out there for some solid infos.

Yesterday I had a recall seminar for CPR, and the instructor told us that although we in Canada are protected against this, if you give ressucitation manoeuvers to someone in the U.S and break a rib or two, which is almost garanteed to happen when properly done, you could get sued.

Even worse: calling 911 and not doing nothing can land you in trouble as well.... So the only solution left is what? Run away?

Could someone please shed some light on this topic?


Short answer, you're usually covered by some form of "Good Samaritan Law" if the person is unconscious and unable to respond or give consent.

Excerpted from FirstAidWeb:

Any legal questions should be referred to an attorney. FirstAidWeb does note the following general principles, which may or may not apply in any particular jurisdiction. A person must give consent to an offer of assistance before the rescuer renders aid. If a person is conscious, the rescuer should ask for consent before rendering help. Consent is implied if the person is unconscious, so badly hurt that the injury is potentially life-threatening or so ill that s/he cannot respond. A rescuer should attempt to receive permission to render aid from a parent or guardian if the person is a minor or is mentally or emotionally handicapped. If a parent or guardian is unavailable, the rescuer may give aid without consent. State "Good Samaritan" laws may provide rescuers with legal protection if the rescuer acts in good faith and is not guilty of gross negligence or reckless or willful misconduct. The scope of protection afforded by these laws varies from state to state; the rescuer should be familiar with the laws of any state in which s/he is rendering aid.


I'm pretty sure there's a good samaritan rule that prohibits this, in both cases.


There is a good samaritan law in most if not all states, however it doesnt protect you from being sued. Especially if you have a medical degree, with the license that I carry if I stop and render aid at a car wreck I am liable.

Now you have an accountant Jim that has CPR training and Bob his accountant co-worker goes down and Jim gives CPR but Bob goes tits up. Jim will not be in a liable situation with Bob's wife.

If I am visiting Jim and he is going over my taxes and Bob goes down and I render aid I can be held liable. Why? Cause I have malpractice insurance and Bob's wife in her grieving process could get some extra money on top of Bob's life insurance.

Welcome to my world. :slight_smile:


That's fucked up.


Yea makes me want to jump up to help people all the time. Worked ER for about 14 years we always discussed this topic so I worked with a few ER Dr's who had been sued for malpractise for stopping at car wrecks to help. There advise was to just let someone else with no medical background render aid and run.


^^this part is not really true. you dont have to break ribs to do CPR properly.

Like everyone has stated, there are good Samaritan laws that are supposed to prevent people from being sued who are genuinely trying to help BUT they are very different state to state. You have to know the laws for the state you live in.


In some states its required that you stop and help if you have a medical background. I remember my teachers talking about it when I was going through the EMT-B course


Well Greg you big strong stud you when you do CPR you would break ribs. :slight_smile:

Honestly has to do with body habitus, I have performed CPR probably excess of 4 or 5 hundred times. If they are 80 years old and weigh 70 pounds you are going to crack some ribs, if it that 400 pound marathon sumo runner. You would have to jump up and down on his chest to break ribs.


Texas has that, how are you going to get caught? I make sure and never tell anybody that I saw a wreck etc.

Now if I saw a wreck and nobody was around I would give aid and stop, I am not heartless. However if there are other people around I do not stop. Sorry but it is what it is.


yeah thats what my instructor was talking about. It would be very hard to get "caught" for not stopping but if you're going to put some liscence plate cover or sticker on your car that hints at what you do then you could get busted.


ER Doc's were friends of mine very first thing they told me, no carrying scopes hanging from rear view. No stickers or vanity plates. It is a sad world we live in but......


Thanks for the answers Postholedigger and DJHT. Yeah, pretty fucked up!

DJHT, that's what I meant by getting sued for helping someone out. What's the extent of the samaritan law, I wonder?

I'm a trainer, and visits the U.S at times. Let's say someone, in a gym or other public area, has a stroke. What should I do? Turn around and walk away, or save him, but break a couple of ribs doing so?


yeah man.... everyones looking to make an easy buck


I actually work for the Canadian Red Cross as a First Aid Instructor and the Program Rep for First Aid for NOrth and Central Alberta.

In Alberta you're covered by this:


the Emergency Medical Aid Act.

Basically regardless of who you are you can't be sued for what you do unless you were negligent. The interpretaion of this by the courts is that you did what was in the best interest of the patient to the best of your training. So as a first aider you're covered provided you do what you were taught, if you decide to bust out an emergency Trach you're screwed.

Canada is pretty consistent on this but I don't know about the US so YMMV.



Does this stuff only go for having a medical liscence?

I'm currently training as a firefighter/first responder, so who all exactly does this liability stuff apply to?


It is always about the situation, people in your example should have signed waivers. Of course that still does not protect you from litigation. Sorry to say there are a lot of lawyers that will take on anything for money.

If someone is pulseless and apnic that you witness go down, you have no choice in my opinion but give CPR. Now you do not carry malpractice insurance, so chances are slim that you will end up in court.

The key here is what can be obtained, how deep are the pockets. Some familys or individuals would sue the gym and anybody that could possibly be involved. Then they settle most of it and go after the deep pockets.


depends on your state. I'm a nationally registered EMT-B and working on getting into the fire academy later this year... it applies to me out here in CA.


Let's put things in context here. I'm just a CPR certified trainer, no medical background properly speaking, although I do have an M.Sc in kinesiology. I'm 255 lbs, and chances are I'll be nervous as hell in a situation where people are relying on me to save their lives.

I'm not saying breaking a rib/s, snapping off the rib from its cartilage attachement, etc, happens every time, but it does happen pretty often, enough to make one consider giving CPR if that means being sued later.

I'm talking from a Canucks/tourist's perspective here, as I visit the U.S a couple of times a year, in different states. Kind of a bother to get that info every time you go to a different state, huh?


My question is...

Why would you give CPR to a Canadian in the first place?

Mebbe a Canadian woman.....they're hot!