Monday, May 7

When do you call a halt to a challenge?

The US has a pretty much justly deserved reputation as a litigatious society. A country where a man tries to sue a dry cleaners for millions of dollars over one pair of trousers has something wrong somewhere.

But then you see stories which show *why* these litigations are possible. The Guardian reported on a case where a man died of dehydration while the guides stood by - the guides had water, but didn't give it to him as his days task was to hike all day and only drink water he found. The group didn't find any water until 7pm. David Buschow died 100 yards from water. The company say they're not liable as he signed a waiver.

Signed a waiver? You have water, a man is clearly in high distress having not drank all day, and you don't give him any because he signed a waiver?

I'm all for outdoors challenges. I'm all for people pushing themselves to see what they can do. And accidents will sometimes happen - but the occasional accident is worth risking for the feeling of being alive. People die running marathons in warm weather in the UK, despite all the drinks available - this is unfortunate and sad, but no reason to ban marathons.

This case, however, is in a different league (as presented in the Guardian, anyway). When the consequences of failure are death, sheer responsibility for your fellow man should mean you should have the decency to call a halt. If common decency or intelligence is lacking, then the threat of a lawsuit may be the only thinking preventing this from happening more often.

My view on why this case was justified:
1. The problem is predictable. You are taking people through a desert and they don't have water on them. Dehydration is a predictable problem
2. You are the guide. You are the one telling them not to bring water with them, and challenging them. You therefore have the responsibility to call an end to the challenge if need be.
3. Someone with dehydration will lose their ability to think clearly. If they're dehydrated because you've pressured them not to drink, you are taking responsibility
4. If you're coming up with the idea of challenging people to cross a desert without taking water with them, you should be making absolutely sure that the guides recognise the symptoms of dehydration, and that there are clear rules as to when to call a halt.
5. This was not a sudden situation, the Guardian article indicates that he had steadily been showing increasingly worsening symptoms.
6. You cannot hydrate yourself through sheer willpower. No matter how tough someone is, if they get dehydrated enough they will drop.

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