Because I'm an RN, my next-door neighbor recently asked if I'd be willing to give her 7-year-old daughter an epinephrine injection if she needed it. (She's highly allergic to bee stings.) She said the child won't give herself an injection. My neighbor is afraid to do it because the one time she tried, she was so nervous that she hurt the child quite a bit.
I'd be happy to give the injection if I'm home, but I'm wondering about liability if something goes wrong. Should I agree to give the needed shot if I'm available or tell my neighbor not to call me? I wouldn't want the girl to get the antidote too late just because I'm worried about liability.--G.N., TEX. Most states have laws that protect care providers in emergencies, so if a neighbor's child is highly reactive to bee stings, you're probably safe in administering epinephrine if she's stung.
However, agreeing in advance to give the shot could change the nature of the situation from "emergency" to "preplanned," so Good Samaritan laws might not apply. To be safe, check with your liability insurance carrier and ask for a written response. If you wouldn't be covered, tell your neighbor that if her daughter gets stung, she must give the injection and call 911.
No matter what the legal situation, impress on your neighbor that she must learn to give the drug herself because a bee sting could threaten her daughter's life and you won't always be available to help. Emphasize how easy an Epi-Pen is to use and encourage her to contact the child's primary care provider for practice samples without medication so she can get comfortable with the technique.
Penny Simpson Brooke is a professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing in Salt Lake City. She's also on the board of directors and president of the foundation of The American Association of Nurse Attorneys.
Copyright Springhouse Corporation May 2003
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