The lesson of this column is: In an emergency, treat first and ask legal questions later. This is both good medicine and good law.
There is no universally recognized definition of an emergency, and the law will generally accept the determination of health care professionals, if consistent with accepted practice, in defining an emergency condition or situation. The most common definition is that an emergency is any injury or acute medical condition liable to cause death, disability, or serious illness if not immediately attended to.
Obvious examples of emergency conditions that require the immediate attention of a physician or properly trained health professional to prevent loss of life include:
Massive hemorrhage from major vessels
Cessation or acute embarrassment of respiration
Profound shock from any cause
Rapidly acting poison
Acute epidural hemorrhage
Acute overwhelming bacteremia and
Severe head injuries
Penetrating wound of the pleura or pericardium
Rupture of an abdominal viscus
Acute psychotic states.