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  • Writer's pictureDr. Steven Horwitz

Legal Risk of Bystander Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation



"Background: Research has shown disparities between provision of bystander CPR among different race, gender and age groups. Reasons for this disparity have included concern of legal liability by responders. We propose that bystanders are more likely to face litigation for lack of intervention as opposed to providing bystander CPR. This review of the legal literature seeks to quantify the number of cases brought against responders in the USA over the past 30 years. Methods: The Westlaw legal research database was searched for jury verdicts, settlements, and appellate opinions from all 50 states from 1989 to 2019, in which the use or non-use of CPR gave rise to a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. A total of 274 cases were initially identified and manually reviewed. Outcomes recorded included case jurisdiction, location, date, plaintiff and defendant demographics, bystander training, motivation for the lawsuit, including claims of battery for performing CPR or negligence related to injuries or death following CPR or AED use. Results: Preliminary data shows that 41.1% (114 of 274) of all cases screened were directly due to the provision of bystander CPR or lack thereof. Among the relevant cases, 64% (73 of 114) were due to inadequate or untimely bystander CPR. Battery cases due to providing CPR amounted to 32% (32 of 114), but of these, 59.4% (19 of 32) were ruled in favor of the defendant. Conclusions: This represents the largest study of legal cases involving bystander CPR in the medical literature, limitations include a lack of a national repository of trial data thus underestimating the total number of cases involving bystander CPR. The likelihood of facing litigation is significantly higher in cases where bystander CPR was delayed or not provided. (Emphasis added) The authors propose the inclusion of this data and reiteration of protective statutes in all 50 states during CPR training to reassure and encourage trainees."



"A person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is wilfully or wantonly negligent, including a person who:

(1) administers emergency care using an automated external defibrillator; or

(2) administers emergency care as a volunteer who is a first responder as the term is defined under Section 421.095 (Definitions), Government Code.


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

(1) for or in expectation of remuneration, provided that being legally entitled to receive remuneration for the emergency care rendered shall not determine whether or not the care was administered for or in anticipation of remuneration; or

(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."

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