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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Education Crisis (Averted?)

I read an article tonight about an apparent 'crisis' situation in one Australian school region. It seems that in New South Wales "nearly every classroom" has a child with a serious allergy. I have blogged before about the fear that teachers have in dealing with serious allergy. It can be very traumatic even to imagine that you would have to give a child an injection from an epinephrine auto-injector during an emergency.

That being said, I was surprised to read the following passage. "'From a legal point of view, we would advise teachers not to medicate because they do not have qualifications,' Ms O'Halloran said. 'Obviously, if there's an emergency, the teachers need to act but ... it's very problematic.'"

It is no wonder that there is a (perceived) 'crisis' given that the teachers' federation leadership is implying that teachers need formal medical training to administer an EpiPen. That just adds to the anxiety teachers already feel. The teachers' federation is likely taking this position to bolster its efforts to secure a dedicated nurse for every school.

While it would be helpful (for a variety of health and safety reasons) to have a nurse in every school, teachers need not fear an EpiPen or Twinject. They do require training of course but the device is easy to use, and it is generally pretty clear when an emergency situation requires its application. Furthermore, there is minimal risk associated with administering an 'unnecessary' EpiPen dose in a less-serious situation that did not actually require epinephrine, but was 'mistaken' for anaphylaxis.

Though I am not a lawyer I would also question the validity of the legal advice the federation offers to its members. Teachers likely have 'duty to rescue' exposure should they be equipped to aid a child in an emergency situation and take no action. I think they would have no choice but to help.

In addition they would likely (hopefully?) fall under some degree of 'Good Samaritan' protection, codified or not, should something untoward happen during the attempted 'rescue'. I did a quick search for the presence of said legislation in Australia and though it appears that some form of law has been passed, it was not clear whether it extends to teachers.

There is also non sequitur in the federations legal advice to abstain from giving medical treatment. Why would a teacher administer emergency treatment in a situation other than an emergency?

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