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#40065 - 09/03/14 02:52 PM hiking ethics
smithb Offline


Registered: 10/04/10
Posts: 80
Loc: ventura county, ca

you and your hiking buddy are hiking a trail that gets sporadic use. you are about five miles from a trailhead where you recently left your vehicle. no other cars were seen at the trailhead. there is no cell service on the trail. cell service might be available on a nearby ridgeline. you have no spot nor personal locator beacon nor satellite phone. you watch as your buddy trips and falls, striking their head. they have scrapes but no major bleeding. they are unconscious but breathing on their own.

suggestions?

do you stay or do you go?

if you leave, where and how do you leave them?

where do you go?

i know there may be variables i've neglected. and without adding anything else to the mix, what do you do?

my concern is hiking ethics.

this is not based on anything other than my imagination.

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#40066 - 09/03/14 03:03 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1559
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
How is this an ethical question?
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#40067 - 09/03/14 03:21 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7590
Loc: Fresno, CA
I realize this is not a good answer, but in my opinion, people should not hike in remote/seldom traveled places without a SPOT or other signalling device these days.

But more answering the questions:

1. Make sure the victim is comfortable, attend to any bleeding.

2. hike to the trail head, drive until cell service is found. Call for help. Unless you are SURE there is cell service (based on similar prior experience with the phone), don't climb a ridge -- climbs can take longer than expected.

Not sure it is about ethics. It is just a matter of the best way to get help for the injured person as soon as possible.

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#40068 - 09/03/14 03:23 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: saltydog]
smithb Offline


Registered: 10/04/10
Posts: 80
Loc: ventura county, ca
Originally Posted By: saltydog
How is this an ethical question?

good question.

in this hiking community that stretches far and wide, what is right and what is wrong behaviour?

that's ethics.

do you leave your defenseless buddy at the mercy of anyone or anything passing by?


Edited by smithb (09/03/14 03:25 PM)

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#40069 - 09/03/14 03:50 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1559
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Still don't see it as an ethical question. Its a matter of weighing physical risks to one person. You are not weighing your interest against his, are you? You are simply deciding as a matter of strategy and risk management what is the most effective way to serve his interest. Is there some question at play here other than finding the most effective way to help the victim?
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#40070 - 09/03/14 03:52 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
I don't see this as an ethics question. I see it as a wilderness medicine question.

The issue is, what steps should you take to best care for this patient. I don't have my little cheat sheet with me, but to my recollection, if you have a WFA class in your background, then you'll probably stabilize the spine, check airway/breathing/circulation, check for vitals and conduct a full patient assessment. Based on that (e.g., is there bleeding or obvious trauma injury what is pulse, respiration? Check the CSMs. Is the person still unconscious? Is there an apparent mechanism of injury? Do you know anything else about the patient history -- use of meds perhaps-- that could be relevant), you'll decide the next course of action. If you conclude this is an evacuation emergency and the patient cannot adequately be cared for by you, you probably will do what you can to get the patient warm and protected in your absence (inside a tent? In sleeping bag? Water/food available if he/she comes to? ) and go for help. For a suspected head injury, spine should be stabilized, head elevated 6" above body, airway kept clear if possible.

The NOLS WFA class teaches protocols for backcountry event like this. Well worth taking.

WFA-wilderness first aid. Available everywhere including an REI store near you. Expect to pay about $200.

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#40071 - 09/03/14 04:01 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Stay and assist your partner to the best of your ability till it's evident that more good will reasonably come of leaving him/her in order to seek aid. It's a judgment call based upon many variables which you cannot completely cover in a hypothetical what-if. Doug Thompson will tell you vehemently, having seen every possible variation on this for 27 years at the Portal, do not abandon your only partner unless it's clear they cannot make it out with your assistance or are in serious jeopardy.

Now, substitute "another solo hiker unknown to you" for "buddy" in that injured/unconscious scenario. Then it becomes an ethical question. David Sharp's death on Everest in 2006, while exponentially more complicated, illustrates this quandary best.


Edited by Bulldog34 (09/03/14 04:10 PM)
Edit Reason: Added David Sharp incident

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#40072 - 09/03/14 04:12 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Bulldog34]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Respectfully, I disagree. The decision should depend on the outcome of your patient assessment, patient history, among other things.

My recollection is that lack of consciousness is an evacuation event. And probably a pretty critical one. I'd still want to have the results of the assessment -- pulse, respiration, etc etc. This may be relevant to your course of action, and also is information the authorities will want. Having stabilized the person as best one can, the next step likely would be to figure out the quickest way to get help and initiate an evacuation. Could be, I don't know, an internal bleeding event in the brain. A difference of a few hours on getting help could be critical.

The WFA class is intended to provide a framework for exactly this type of decision making process.

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#40073 - 09/03/14 04:16 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Akichow]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Not sure what you're disagreeing with, Karin. Can you be more specific?

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#40074 - 09/03/14 04:26 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Bulldog34]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
I disagree that you necessarily would stay. I would do the full patient assessment and base my decision on that. Unconscious and breathing is probably an evacuation event, so once I've done what I can for the person, I am consulting my NOLS cheat sheet but probably going for help.

Well I see now that you said stay if staying will be more help than going. Fair enough. But how do you make that decision? Seems to me that ducks the key question. But that is where the NOLS training is so helpful.

Decision making is a crisis is hard, and that is what WFA training addresses. So rather rather than attempt to answer what I see as a very incomplete hypothetical based on a well-intentioned but flawed premise, I'd prefer to suggest the tools/resources available to address this type of situation.


Edited by Akichow (09/03/14 04:32 PM)

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#40075 - 09/03/14 04:37 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Bulldog34]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1559
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
On Whitney, you are almost certain to be able to get word out in a reasonable time, even if you are not within earshot of another hiker at a particular moment. So DOug's experience at the Portal is sort of skewed by the circumstances. I would be interested to know what he would say in the case first posed here: no likelyhood of another hiker coming along.
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#40076 - 09/03/14 04:52 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Akichow]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
I think we're saying the same thing, just interpreting differently. I'm allowing a little more leeway for variables that might affect your decision - not the least of which is your/my/others ability to adequately assess the medical situation. smithb left it pretty vague in that area - deliberately, I'm sure. When I say stay and assist to the best of your ability, that's the assessment in my mind. Assuming you cannot rouse the victim after a reasonable period of time, then you have to make the effort to get help. This falls under the "serious jeopardy" category, to me.

So many other variables can come into play, though, in deciding to leave a partner alone and unconscious in the wild. How long has he/she been unconscious? Pupils reactive? Pulse rate? Breathing shallow or strong/steady? Is this in an area with large predators about? Is your partner your young child? Weather, impending darkness, exposure (the vertical kind) are all factors that could play in either your decision or timing to "abandon" the unconscious partner for his/her greater good.

Broad question, broad answer. The more specific the scenario, the better I can gauge my response.

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#40077 - 09/03/14 05:09 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Bulldog34]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Bulldog, I like agreeing with you. I agree with you!

Except, I think broad question, narrow answer. And my proposed answer is: "it is a wilderness medical question, and if you want to be best positioned to answer this question, take a wilderness first aid class."

Yes, there are a ton of variables. That is addressed in a WFA class, along with a framework for how to gather and process all the relevant information. I don't think the OP can get the answer he/she seeks from a bulletin board post. The question implicates a lot of other questions, and knowing what questions to ask and how in an emergency is part of the challenge.

Okay, off my soapbox. This is NOT a paid message from NOLS or REI. No, it is the musings of a captive of a very long transcontinental flight (Freudian, first I typed "hike") who has too much time on her hands. And who has been through WFA twice (you have to re-up every 2 yrs to keep your certification).

Oh yeah, Salty makes a good point. Whitney Trail options for getting help are much broader which would probably affect the analysis.

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#40080 - 09/03/14 05:38 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
Sierra Angler Offline


Registered: 05/10/13
Posts: 73
Loc: Lake Tahoe California
It is Very simple in the Back Country for First Aid . If You have done everything that You Know How - to Help your Victim.... Stabilize, Setting up Tent and Sleeping Bag etc. Victim has still not regained Con. or is in Traumatic Injury State and He or She is Fading , then You Must Do Everything Possible to Get Help ASAP . Minutes can be the Turning Point . If your are on a Major " VERY ACTIVE "Corridor then waiting for a Passerby to help may work.... or You Must Decide to " beat feet " out to Call or Raise the Rescue Team Alert with accurate Location and Victims Injury / Condition ...in Case You cannot return with Them due to Personal Exhaustion . Map location is Key as well . I Have worked SAR Operations in Yosemite N.P., Mount Whitney , Mendal, etc. Remember this is about a Specific " TIME LINE " of the VICTIMS Ability to Stay with US . There is nothing but - Stabilize, Assess, Prognosis, and then Transport to Professional Medical Care Personnel . Judgement Calls are Made with Strong Emotion's Blended in ... To Stay or Go for HELP is a CASE by CASE basis. If you make the Right Decision .... then the Victim will have a Chance to LIVE and Thank You Later . If Not then you will second Guess yourself till you DIE . I Know I have Been there on Success and Failure . Do What you Can in the Backcountry and Pray... it Can't Hurt !!!! God does not need Cell Towers. A " SPOT " would be EVEN BETTER to ADD in 2014 . I use one All the Time. Stay Safe and Always be Prepared for the WORST . That is All.

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#40081 - 09/03/14 07:54 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Steve C]
JoB Offline


Registered: 07/08/14
Posts: 14
Loc: San Diego, CA
As a new Spot owner, how does that work when summoning a rescue for someone else? If they have an obvious life threatening condition it's a given to call for help, but what about the grey areas? I am specifically thinking of last summer when my team was approaching the summit and had to wait for a CHP helicopter making several attempts to land for a rescue. Once we got to the summit we heard the details of whom they were looking for and realized we passed a woman descending who matched the exact description of the hiker in distress. CHP didn't find a victim and she apparently hiked out safely. I've always wondered who paid that bill, the hiker 'needing' a rescue or the presumable Good Samaritan who called it in.

It's still not an ethical decision for me, if I come across a situation that I believe in my good judgment needs a rescue, I'll hit the button and clean up the mess later. Just curious if there is precedent; this has undoubtedly come up before.


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#40082 - 09/03/14 11:18 PM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
Instead of a hypothetical answer, here is a real life example:

About 30+ years ago, when I was with Inyo SAR, a climber suffered a broken hip on Starlight Peak, in the Palisades, at about 14,200 feet, after being struck by rock-fall. The injured man was immobile and in pain. His partner down-climbed and hiked out to find the wilderness ranger (there were still seasonal rangers then) and reported the accident.

The ranger used his radio to call for assistance and Inyo SAR was contacted by the Inyo Sheriff.

In the meantime, the partner climbed, in the dark via the U-Notch, back to his injured friend and made sure his friend stayed warm through the night.

The next day and night we accomplished a successful rescue.

The injured man's partner did all the right things: 1)made sure his friend was in a safe place, 2)went for help, and 3)returned to guide the rescue team to his friend and maintained vigil with his injured partner until help arrived.



Edited by Bob West (09/03/14 11:26 PM)

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#40083 - 09/04/14 01:49 AM Re: hiking ethics [Re: Bob West]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2243
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
And 30+ years from now, it will be inconceivable that anybody would venture into the wilderness without at least a satphone.

Probably activate the emergency tracker implant by tugging on the left earlobe three times. Or tell Siri. "Siri, we have a problem"
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#40095 - 09/06/14 09:22 AM Re: hiking ethics [Re: wagga]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Not enough information.

I have come off a mountain with a 4-mile trail up in less than an hour. I ran down a known 3-mile trail that was icy part of in about 45 minutes to start a SAR rescue.

In the latter case, I could pinpoint the location on the map for SAR...a skill many who go out wilderness cannot do. A helicopter was there in about 90 minutes from the time of the accident. One of the problems here was the victims were laying in an icy creek and could not be moved because of neck injuries. I did more good running away than I could have staying...there were others tending these people. This is the gist of the story, not the whole narrative.

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#40104 - 09/07/14 11:40 AM Re: hiking ethics [Re: smithb]
smithb Offline


Registered: 10/04/10
Posts: 80
Loc: ventura county, ca
thank you all for all of your thoughtful replies.

you've answered my question.

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