Okay, so a little background, I work in a rural doctors office. It's a family practice and we see newborns to geriatric. We're in Vermont, but we straddle the New York line. The closest hospital in Vermont is a half hour drive , and the nearest to us in New York is about a forty-five minute drive. Of course this is on a nice sunny day when there isn't three feet of snow on the ground.
So, we see our fair share of emergencies. The nearby slate quarries are for ever sending us their lacerated workers. We see chainsaw and power tool accidents, and we even had treated a guy who had climbed up a ladder while carrying his nail gun. Bad idea, that. He shot a nail straight through his heart, and his buddy thought it was a good idea to bring him to us instead of calling 911. He ended up with open-heart surgery and is fine now, but those were some tense moments while we waited for the squad and tried to stabilize him. One of our doctors actually road in the squad with him.
So anyway, you get the idea that we are kind of secluded as far as a disaster goes. We are the nearby high school's physician. Therefore, the three times there were bus accidents , they came to us. We processed thirty children in under an hour.
Yesterday I attended a meeting on disaster preparedness.
We were given different scenarios to contemplate, and I believe we’re pretty well prepared. But, one gentleman brought up a moral dilemma. We were talking about people coming in from a boating accident at one of the area lakes. We got to discussing if they were drinking and when our responsibility for calling the law comes in.
For me, it's an easy choice. If they are a danger to themselves or others , then you call. If they had all been drinking, you don't let them leave. If they have a driver and are okay, they can go.
This one guy though seemed to suggest patients wouldn't seek medical attention if they injured themselves doing something illegal if they were afraid we would call the police.
Frankly, in my opinion, that's on them. But then he said..."Well , what if one of your children were at a party drinking and they consumed too much and had alcohol poisoning. Would you want his friends to be afraid to bring him to the hospital or seek medical care because they were afraid of the potential legal consequences?”
Well, put it that way, no. But where do you draw the line? What is your responsibility, morally, ethically and civically?
I don't want someone under the influence on the road, and I can't in good consciousness let someone who is impaired leave this office. But I can kind of see this guy’s point of view.