Fentanyl crisis could hamper good Samaritans

One Man's Opinion
By Doug Collins
June 6, 2017 - 5:00pm

KAMLOOPS — So the question is- you see someone lying in the street, obviously in distress. Maybe they’re not breathing. Maybe they are unconscious. You aren’t sure what to do. Your first response is to try and help. You call 911. The person on the line suggests you perform CPR. But you see some white powder on the person’s clothing. You think it might be fentanyl. Now you think perhaps the victim has suffered an overdose. You worry you might be exposed to the opioid. So you do nothing. That pretty much describes the scenario a Manitoba postal worker went through recently when he found a woman in a lobby of a building where he was delivering mail. The worked refused to perform CPR. We don’t know if the woman survived, or if the white powder was fentanyl. But for Good Samaritans who happen by those types of situations, it’s a legitimate concern, says the Red Cross. Emergency crews are equipped with gloves, perhaps an artificial respiration mask, and naloxone to counter any problems. But for you and I walking down the street, are we equipped to deal with that sort of thing? A friend had a recent experience that pointed out to me just how much of a concern it is. He came to work in the wee hours of the morning (he’s as crazy as me) , and on the door handle of his building was a grocery bag with some items inside. Not knowing what was inside (for all I know in this day and age, it might have been a bomb), he carefully removed the bag from the door handle and went inside. He called the police to report this material, and the first thing the officer said was “don’t touch the bag.” Too late for that, he said. He was told to immediately wash his hands and use lots of soap. When the police officer arrived, he told my friend that almost every time they respond to something like this now, they have to wear their rubber gloves and be prepared for just about anything. His concern was that if someone had been using drugs, some of the material could have transferred to the handle of the bag. My friend touches the handle, accidentally touches his mouth, eyes, whatever, and he’s exposed. He wouldn’t have naloxone with him likely, so he could easily have faced problems. As it turned out, the material in the bag was harmless, but it points out the precautions that need to be taken these days. So do you act like a Good Samaritan when you see a situation like that described above? Or do you call 911 and hope the person survives. In some cases, an accident perhaps, you might respond differently than happening by someone sprawled in a street or alley. I would like to think that my beliefs would have taught me to respond to the needs of others, but I’m not really sure. Like the case of the Winnipeg postal worker, would I stand back and refuse to help, or would I perform CPR anyway, without any precautions. I remember this kind of story surfaced in the early days of HIV, but with the potential of instant problems with ingestion of fentanyl, this might be even worse. Proper training can help, but most people don’t carry emergency gear with them when they’re out for a stroll in the park, or walking to their car after a meal or a concert. It’s not an easy choice.