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Where are the first responders?


Chidi had lived an amazing life. He was a good friend at LASU-Laws and a colleague at the Bar, making his points slowly but with convincing submissions. His collapse in Court on March 15, 2016 proved fatal. He had been rushed outside the court room on that fateful day for fresh air in the absence of first aid. Applying a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation or external chest compression would have saved him, perhaps a little dose of aspirin. This incident highlights three issues that must be urgently addressed by government at any level: the need for first aid equipment, specific training for first aiders and first aid support with best practices.

There have been avoidable deaths resulting from lack of first aid in the country. One wonders why public places do not have clinics or first aid/first aiders. This is not the first time Nigerians faint or slump in public places. In place of first aid, an onlooker prefers to take pictures of a misfortune for onward transmission to the social media. That is another issue entirely.

While some states may have ambulances for emergencies, first aid boxes in public places are luxury. Litigants and lawyers alike have slumped many times in our courts/public places. Up to 150,000 people a year could be given a chance to live if more people knew how to administer first aid, says Charity St John Ambulance, as it launches a forceful campaign to encourage more people to learn this vital skill.

Thousands of people are dying each year in situations where first aid could have made the difference. This includes nearly 900 people who choke to death, 2,500 who asphyxiate from a blocked airway and 29,000 who die from heart attacks. First aid could make a dramatic difference in these situations, either through direct intervention, in the case of choking, or by recognising life-threatening signs, such as a heart attack, and caring for someone until medical help arrives.

A commissioned research in the U.S. by a charity has revealed that nearly two-thirds of people (59%) wouldn’t feel confident enough to try to save a life; a quarter (24%) would do nothing and wait for an ambulance to arrive or hope that a passer-by knows first aid. I wonder what a lack of first aid knowledge research would reveal in Nigeria. We may never know if someone would have survived after an accident. In the absence of any first aid, he doesn’t even have a chance.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) must wake up and push for reforms in our courts. The Federal Government through appropriate ministries and agencies must direct the teaching/training of first aid from primary schools. Let us stop these needless sudden deaths and unhelpful resort to ferrying persons straight to the hospital which could be miles away. The other day a policeman was shouting for help while a child that was hit by a runaway vehicle lay helplessly on the road. He simply didn’t know what to do! Our gas stations, supermarkets, schools, market places, bus parks, airports, vehicles must have first aid boxes. It would not surprise anyone that some of the road safety patrol vehicles do not even have first aid boxes?

The question is: what value do we attach to human life and how best can we save it when we can?

In the years since introduction Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) in the UK, the use of AEDs even by lay persons has proved so successful that fears have been expressed that a business may be found negligent should a member of the public suffer a cardiac arrest while on the premises because they did not provide an AED. This was a major public issue when two airline companies were successfully sued in the U.S. because an AED was not available to treat passengers who suffered cardiac arrests during a flight.

There is currently no legislation in the UK which obliges certain businesses or premises to provide an AED but under English law, there can be liability in negligence for failing to take appropriate safety precautions on your premises. Whether precautions are appropriate will depend on balancing the cost and benefit of the precaution. In some premises the hazards are inherent and it can be seen, by analogy, that the time might come when certain types of premises would be considered defective if they were not equipped with AEDs.

The likelihood of harm will depend on the type of people who use the facility, how likely they are to have a cardiac arrest, and the severity of potential harm is clearly very high and the vulnerability of potential victims will very much depend on the circumstances and the type of people attending the facility.

No doubt, there is an urgent need for first responders in Nigeria. Our attitude must change to saving lives. A bill for the compulsory learning and training of first aid in schools, NYSC camps, drivers institute, etc is imminent. Within the next decade, nearly two-thirds of people under the age of 30 years would be first responders. Think of the lives that could be saved.

Chidi died on the anniversary of yet another World Consumer Rights Day. As user of a facility, you are a customer and by extension a consumer. We have a right to a safe environment, to basic needs. Government must live up to safeguarding these rights and we must ensure we do our part.

Ayojimi is of the Centre for Consumer Concern.

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