Preventing Hesitation to Stop the Bleed: Michigan Trauma Coalition Works to Protect the Good Samaritan

MTC Stop the Bleed Subcommittee

Imagine being the school bus driver involved in a bus collision and there is a need to render aid to a child involved in the crash. Or walk in the shoes of a neighbor who just witnessed their friend start to bleed after cutting themselves while trimming a tree. The “helpers” in these situations would be considered “Good Samaritans”- anyone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured or ill person. In some states and countries there are laws put in place to protect the acts of a Good Samaritan. In fact, all 50 states have good Samaritan Laws, with some variations in who is protected and in what circumstances. In some countries, there are Duty to Rescue Laws that hold a person liable if they fail to act in an emergency!

Enter the Stop the Bleed Program…
The American College of Surgeons developed a program, called Stop the Bleed, that teaches non-medical people techniques to control a life-threatening bleed at the scene of an emergency until help arrives. The idea behind the program is to encourage any bystander to help a person who is bleeding to reduce the risk of bleeding to death. The encouragement of such life-saving measures is supported by organizations like the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, that recently reported that pre-hospital use of tourniquets is not only increasing, but improving the outcomes of civilians with major extremity trauma

So why NOT help?

Many non-medical community members come to the Stop the Bleed Trainings with the question, “What can I do to help if I come across someone that is bleeding”. Often, the question then becomes, “Can the victim or family take legal action if I cause harm while rendering aide using Stop the Bleed techniques?”. The answer if you live in Michigan is… Yes. Currently, only three states that provide protection from liability for a citizen that provides Stop the Bleed measures. Review of the Michigan Good Samaritan Law reveals that protections are provided to:

  • Physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, or EMS provider rendering emergency care; determining fitness to engage in competitive sports
  • Medical staff who respond to a life-threatening emergency within a hospital or medical center
  • An individual who administers an opioid antagonist
  • Any individual who administers CPR or uses an AED
  • Block parent volunteer renders assistance to a minor during an emergency
  • Member of national ski patrol system rendering emergency care

Simply put, Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law does not currently offer protection for someone rescuing a person with a life-threatening bleed by applying a tourniquet or holding pressure.

Michigan’s Legislators are working to amend the Good Samaritan Law to protect people who use Stop the Bleed techniques in rendering emergency aid to someone experiencing a life-threatening bleed.

MTC members, please send an email to your elected officials to support legislation introduced on Stop the Bleed (the Good Samaritan bills).