Monday, February 24, 2014

Rule of Rescue

I've been thinking a lot about the Rule of Rescue (RoR) since our last class. I'm interested in wilderness emergency medicine so this topic caught my attention.

I took a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course in Minnesota last winter which teaches students how to assess risk and deal with injury in the back country. 

As a trip leader, one of the questions we were forced to think about is if we were to encounter a severely injured stranger while leading a trip through the back country how would you react? You could jeopardize the success of your trip by helping this individual. Do you do it anyways? 

I believe the answer is almost always yes. However, the debate really comes down to if you can safely leave your trip. As the responder it is ultimately your decision. It is an issue of morality and safety. If I could safely leave my group the answer is absolutely yes. Will my co-leader be safe with the group if I go to attempt rescue? Will I be putting my participants, my co-leader, or myself at serious risk by going? Is successful rescue a viable and feasible option? It's my duty as a human being to do my best to save an identified endangered life. However, if  for some reason my group cannot safely be left it's an entirely different issue... I have young, healthy people that it is my contracted job to protect. How would I reconcile or deal with this? 

In the case of Everest  the Japanese team argue that they could not have safely carried the endangered down so they continue to the summit. However, the way the event is recalled indicates that they did not try anything before making this assertion. (If, in fact the assertion is accurate and not just a cover for their selfish desire to continue the climb.) To see a body in the snow and assume they are dead, if it is not initially clear, is wrong. The division between ethical and unethical seems to me to fall where you have tried everything you can and contacted everyone who could possibly help before deciding it is in fact not feasible or too risky for you as a responder. This is the only way that I can accept ignoring the chance to save a severely endangered life.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, and I hope that I would be a person who is willing to go above and beyond to save a life. That being said, I do think it is hard to reconcile this as an ethical matter. It seems to me that there is a consensus in the world of mountaineering that you don't jeopardize your life to save another. I am tempted to say that in almost every place on a mountain like Everest, you would be seriously jeopardizing your life in what would be a very very low chance of successfully saving someone's life.

    Maybe that, then, is something to be considered. When someone makes the decision to turn away from saving a life, it seems to matter how functional/realistic a rescue would be. On Everest, especially above the death zone, there seems to be a very small margin for the possibility of success.