Fictional first aid is often applied in ways that would be useless or outright counterproductive in Real Life. There's the reason of safety, as during CPR or the Heimlich maneuver organs in the way are considered to be expendable. There's the practical reason that the audience might prefer their unconsciousness and revival scene without it turning into Fun Things To Do With Vomit. There's the dramatic reason that a character may not actually know first aid, or the work may be a period piece where medical knowledge is less advanced.
Stock mistakes are:
Moving injured people in any situation is often handled badly. An injured person should only be moved if the immediate danger can't be moved away. Otherwise the character should wait for professional assistance, and can double their usefulness by keeping the person from trying to move themselves.
The Over-the-Shoulder Carry, traditional Fireman's Carry, and Bridal Carry are all absolutely awful, last-ditch only ways to carry an injured person away from danger, regardless of the injury. They increase the risk of spinal injury, or exacerbating injuries like gunshot wounds and stabs.
Pulling someone out of a wrecked vehicle, for the reason that car wrecks are one of the most common ways to get spinal cord injuries (see above). Unless you actually see or hear gasoline leaking + smoke, or you see that one or both cars is actually on fire,leave people in the cars until qualified firefighters and paramedics arrive. Dragging a downed motorcyclist or cyclist is even worse, unless he or she is in immediate danger.
Similarly, as noted in the examples, pulling/carrying a collapsed performer off a stage, especially when the cause of the collapse is unknown and/or there's a high possibility of neck/spinal cord injury (e.g. falls, someone who was headbanging/windmilling/doing headstands/otherwise moving their head and neck around intensely immediately before the collapse and/or showing pain in the neck/back/shoulders before it, someone who got hit in the head or neck or back with something). Instead, halt the show, remove stuff around them that could hurt them, and wait for proper medical assistance to arrive.
Treating burns with butter or oil. Butter or oil will worsen any burn from sunburn to third degree burns, and possibly get it infected. If the skin is recently burned/still burning and the burn is 1st or 2nd degree (most sunburns, brief contact with a hot object, dropped cigarette or cigar on leg, etc), immerse it in or spray it with cool water to stop ongoing damage. If it's third degree just wait for the professionals to arrive.
Removing impaling foreign objects from wounds. Generally they've smashed all the bits they're going to smash, and are now acting as a plug on the wound - and an infection can be fought off with antibiotics at the hospital. Pull the plug, and you may be dead in minutes. Barbed weapons might tear more flesh and if they don't, you're unlikely to be able to pull it out at the exact angle it went in.
Similarly, We Have to Get the Bullet Out. A bullet can remain undetected inside somebody for years and not cause any problems. Generally, the only times a bullet needs to be removed is if it is still travelling in the body, its becoming dislodged can lead to a fatal injury (in which case the doctors want to remove it in a controlled environment rather than it becoming dislodged on its own at random), or if it is serving as a source of infection or immune reaction, despite the fact that firing a bullet heats it to the point that most possibilities of infection will be gone. Getting the bullet out is usually the last thing surgeons bother to do.
Trying to make someone vomit poisonous or infectious things they have consumed. If they aren't already vomiting (which does happen with some substances, alcohol being the most notorious), you should just get them to a hospital. Supportive treatment began early (or antidotes/antitoxins where they exist) often does far more good than trying to purge the substance from the body. Finally, in some cases a drug or alcohol or other overdose can cause unconsciousness and someone vomiting can breathe in their own vomit, complicating their potential survival with a nasty case of pneumonia.
On a related note, trying to "save" someone overdosed on prescription opiates (oxycontin, morphine) or heroin/fentanyl/other opiates by shaking them, putting them in cold baths, sticking ice cubes in their orifices, making them vomit, or giving them amphetamines is some of the worst first aid ever. This is especially tragic because opiates have a absolute antidote, naloxone, and breathing support is pretty much the only supportive treatment needed. If someone gets naloxone and is immediately put on breathing support, their likelihood of surviving even a huge heroin or fentanyl overdose with no ongoing health issues approaches 90% or more. If, however, they do not, that figure reverses to an only 10% at best survival rate, with almost certain brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain. (This is why there are quite a few voices for making naloxone an over the counter substance, or at the very least one can discreetly pick up at any doctor's office no questions asked - it truly is a miracle drug for painkiller or heroin overdoses, and the sooner it's administered the better - if someone can be given the antidote with the ambulance on the way, this increases their odds of survival even more.)
Administering a laxative, suppository, or enema to someone who has stomach/intestinal pain of unknown cause. If they have appendicitis, this can rupture their appendix, leading to at least a horrific infection and possibly their death. If they have any immobile blockage (say, a tumor or an object), their entire large intestine can rupture, leading to almost certain death. Laxatives, suppositories, and enemas should only be administered if the primary illness is constipation with no lower abdominal pain worse than mild discomfort that has persisted no longer than a week, and when the obstruction is known to consist only of fecal matter. Otherwise, the proper course of action is to get them to a hospital, where proper imaging and tests can be done to determine the cause of the pain/there's surgeons and antibiotics available.
Administering lots of acetaminophen/paracetamol/Tylenol/Panadol for pain or fever or similar. Acetaminophen/paracetamol has a surprisingly low dose before it can cause liver damage (especially in heavy drinkers or steroid users or hepatitis A, B, or C patients or others who may have compromised liver function). If a moderate dose of paracetamol doesn't help, give up on it and use ibuprofen or naproxen or, if it's legal where you are, cannabis. And if someone drinks a lot, has a hangover, or has hepatitis, don't ever give them paracetamol in the first place.
It's worth emphasizing: acetaminophen/paracetamol (the two names are both abbreviations for the actual chemical name of the same compound, just selecting different parts) is tricky stuff because the therapeutic dose (the amount required to have any significant beneficial effect) and the toxic dose (the amount at which there are significant detrimental effects) are not terribly far apart. When the label on the bottle says "do not exceed thus-and-so-many pills in 24 hours", it's not a casual recommendation or language inserted to keep the lawyers happy, they mean it.
Another issue with acetaminophen/paracetamol is how many things contain it. Always read the label, especially with cold/flu medications and pain relievers, because it is often added to both. As a good example of how you can accidentally end up with liver failure if you don't read labels, imagine that you just had some minor surgery, so you're temporarily on Vicodin (which contains acetaminophen along with an opiate). You catch a cold, so you take Ny Quil and Day Quil (both of which contain acetaminophen), and then you have a glass of wine at a party. That is literally enough to kill you. To avoid such problems, avoid unnecessary acetaminophen and always read labels.
Disregarding the security of an accident scene or even personal safety, in violation of the most important rule: Avoid increasing the number of casualties. Rushing onto the freeway isn't any more safe because there's an upended car on it. This one's popular in real life – paramedics get called out at least weekly in some areas for accidents caused by people running onto the freeway to help.
Approaching a person in obvious mental distress in a threatening and dominating way or suddenly trying to grab them. This one is often done in Real Life by police, and often leads to the person acting out and the police shooting them in "self-defense." If someone is in obvious mental distress (appears to be attempting suicide, appears to be hallucinating or tripping, uncontrollable crying or rage) the proper response, if no one else is at risk, is to back off and allow the person space, and to approach, if at all, slowly, calmly, and ideally with permission. Someone in mental distress, for whatever reason, often will respond to compassion and respect much better than they will to threats and orders or being, in their mind, suddenly physically assaulted.
Aquatic problems can be even worse. Basic aquatic safety and lifesaving courses will tell you to stay the hell out of the way if there are any professional lifeguards around, and anybody without at least basic training is far more likely to make the situation much, much worse than better.
In Hollywood, if CPR is ineffective it is perfectly fine to start randomly striking the patient in the chest in an attempt to restart their heart. In real life, this is called a precordial thump. It is a precisely aimed blow delivered by an expert in an attempt to interrupt a life-threatening rhythm, in the event that a defibrillator is not available, and can only be attempted once.
The Miraculous Bitchslap Of Life. Somebody isn't breathing, or there's no pulse, and their buddy gets all emotional and angry and slaps them a couple of times, perhaps accompanied by a How Dare You Die on Me! speech. After a few seconds they come around.
Putting someone's head back when they have a nosebleed—you risk making them choke or puke from swallowing the blood.
Person has hypothermia? Throw them in hot water! In real life, this would cause their core temperature to shoot right up, inviting the colder fluid from the extremities in. The resulting diffusion would make the person even colder, or worse, mess up their heart.
Alcohol as a frostbite cure. While alcohol can create a quick rush of warmth by dilating blood vessels, this same effect can cause a faster and very dangerous drop in temperature.
Beginning care on a conscious adult without consent. The person can sue for assault and battery, and this applies even to choking victims. (Just so this article doesn't stop you from helping people in real emergencies, if consent is given, or if consent can be reasonably assumed ("Please help" is a reasonable assumption), then you're often protected by Good Samaritan Laws even if you fail to save the person.) Note that this only applies to conscious adults-conscious children are either assumed to give consent or you must obtain consent from the child's legal guardian (parent or otherwise) on the scene (if there is no one else on the scene, it's assumed). Unconscious ANYTHING is also fair game.
Using a shirt or other article of clothing as a makeshift tourniquet to stop bleeding from a gunshot wound. While this allows for some fanservice as the character tears away their clothing, it's a very bad idea. In real life the clothing will probably stick to the drying blood, causing other problems later when real help arrives. If the tourniquet is left on the limb in question for too long, this will result in the limb becoming necrotic and falling off. This is still preferable to dying of blood loss but should only be done if pressure on the wound (around the wound if there's a something stuck in it) isn't working.
Treating epileptic seizures by putting things in the victims' mouths "to prevent them biting their tongues". This is stupid in multiple ways, including that their erratic muscle contractionsmake getting anything into their mouths difficult anyway. Commenting on this on a British radio programme, one epileptic remarked that "a bitten tongue is a lot better than a broken jaw". This has some basis in reality, since rolled leather was sometimes used to keep people being flogged from biting their tongues, and in Real Life seizure cases it works perfectly fine without damaging the jaws, but the uninformed will grab anything on hand.
Similarly any time someone tries to reach into an epileptic's mouth and keep them from "choking on their tongue" is an invitation for an impromptu amputation of the fingers. Made doubly stupid by the fact that it is impossible to choke on your own tongue. When an epileptic bites, they are doing so unconsciously, and therefore you'll feel the full force of their teeth. Along with the fact that they may not release the bite.
Rock in Black Lagoon - After the final fight of the Tokyo story arc, Revy's leg is impaled all the way through by Ginji's katana. What does Rock do? Why, rip the sword out of her leg! It's incredible that Revy didn't bleed to death.
Subverted by Love Hina: during a holiday on the beach, Shinobu pretends to be unconscious in order to trick Keitaro into performing mouth-to-mouth on her. She is surprised by how methodical and unromantic he is (following all the proper steps); in the end she can't go through with it, and accidentally kicks Keitaro in the crotch instead.
In Detective Conan, a secondary character fights a murderer and in the process is stabbed in the arm. At the end of the fight, he pulls the knife out of his arm. What an idiot.
In a Non-Serial Movie, after Conan was buried underneath an avalanche and found, Ran simply hugs him to her chest and cries for him to wake up while everyone else just stands there, instead of getting some immediate aid to properly re-warm the half-frozen Conan.
Subverted in Fullmetal Alchemist, when Edward is impaled and then tells someone to help him yank the object out. He's warned that doing so will cause more bleeding and he knows full well it will. He just has plans to use alchemy to fix the wound after it's out.
Similarly, when Buccaneer is stabbed in the gut with a sword, he decides to leave it in, since that will slow the bleeding somewhat and there are no medics around.
Subverted by Claymore: The priest who healed Clare put bandages on her clothes. 15 volumes later, he mentioned that it was out of fear/disgust and is deeply ashamed of his behavior.
When Miaka is unconscious from blood loss in Fushigi Yuugi, Hotohori and Tamahome conclude that she needs a blood transfusion... which they accomplish by stabbing themselves and bleeding on her wounds. It's easier to believe they wanted to show off their love for her then seriously believing this would work. They're chided for their stupidity by a savvy healer who uses magic to put the blood where it belongs.
A couple of non-canon parody scenes show them either bled to death or stab each other.
In Strike Witches Yoshika attempts to use her Healing Hands on a sailor that likely has broken ribs and shrapnel lodged in his torso. She's told to stop by another sailor who knows she's only making it worse due to her lack of experience. Probably because it looks like said magical healing is boosting the regeneration rate over the unset bones, bits of shrapnel and likely destroyed blood vessels. She smartly settles on using her super-strength to ferry medical supplies.
Attack on Titan uses this trope for drama when Hannah yells at Armin to help her as she's performing CPR on her boyfriend Hanz, but Armin realizes this is pointless since Hanz is not only already dead but Half the Man He Used to Be, having been torn in half by a titan. Hannah's ministrations obviously have no effect, and this is used to indicate that she's snapped badly from the stress of the battle.
In Lucky Luke, whenever someone has nearly drowned, the usual method of revival is to pull their arms (or front paws, in case of Rantanplan) back and forth, thus pumping the water out of the body. The same technique has been used in older cartoons, since Silvester Method of artificial respiration and dates back to the 19th Century (or early 20th, at least). There's also the Holger-Neilson method, which was used prior to the innovation of modern CPR in 1960. Both have since been shown to be highly dangerous.
There's a rather interesting aversion in the 2000 AD comic "Disaster 1990", back in '79. The Protagonist gets shot in the belly with a harpoon, and explicitly remarks that he'll have to leave it in despite the pain, since removing it would just cause bleeding. The fact that he pointed it out shows that the writer was aware of this trope.
In-universe example of the trope in The Smurfs comic book story "Doctor Smurf", as the title character's less-than-perfect idea of first aid often causes some fairly realistic (if still cartoonish) damage to his patients.
Analyzed and played straight in Runaways. When it looks like Chase is dead from being held under the water, the other kids all throw out different suggestions to bring him back to life, ranging from sucking the water out to the Heimlich maneuver. They do use CPR, but none of them can remember how many compressions to give him. It does cross over into Clean Pretty Reliable territory when it brings him back fully even though his heart had been stopped for several minutes.
Played for laughs in The Emperor's New Groove when Pacha very reluctantly attempts the "kiss of life" on near-drowning victim Kuzco, only to be repelled when Kuzco-the-llama's tongue pops out of his mouth in a manner resembling a moment from Ren and Stimpy. Mercifully, Kuzco recovers on his own.
Films — Live-Action
In The Abyss, the female lead has drowned. Her skin is waxy and white, and she's obviously not breathing. The medical team tries CPR, rescue breathing and a defibrillator, all of which fail to do anything. Then, in a moment of desperation, the main character bitchslap her twice, then shake her for a good 10 seconds, all while desperately screaminga string of curses at her, and she comes right to. It is Truth in Television that it takes a good amount of heating up for a deeply-hypothermic body to resume function, so thinking it's too late when she's not warm enough yet to revive is at least plausible, though there are plenty of other problems with her resuscitation besides that. In the novelization, it's suggested the aliens had a hand in many things, including this.
In the live-action film version of Inspector Gadget, an early trailer shows him going into arrest during the transformation surgery. How does the doctor revive him? The MBL! The scene didn't make the final film; although obviously meant to be Played for Laughs, Disney probably considered it a bit too much for the intended audience.
In Red Planet, the female lead resuscitates male lead who has suffocated for lack of oxygen. Her method consists entirely of acting like a distressed monkey and hitting his ribcage randomly. Somehow severe beating brings him back to life without any form of assisted breathing.
Cloverfield, though that could easily overlap with Could Have Been Messy, and their choices in that situation were all bad: lift the victim off the impaling rebar and risk her bleeding out, or leave her in the building when they know that no rescue is coming, but the monster is.
In Pod People, one character falls off a cliff, and the other characters respond by picking her up by the legs and shoulders to go find help. When it appeared on MST3K, this was accompanied by crunching noises and riffs like, "Quick! Move her spine around a lot!" Then they pour half a bottle of whiskey down her throat.
A similar falling scenario occurs in their presentation of Gamera, complete with the "Move his spine around a lot" riff.
Subverted in Kung Fu Hustle. Sing had a string of unlikely accidents resulting in being impaled by multiple knives. Bone came to the rescue pulling one out, at which point Sing told Bone that it makes the situation worse. Eager to take care of his friend as well as he possibly could, Bone stabbed the knife back to the original wound again with all his might.
While it's technically something of an inversion, Million Dollar Baby manages to medically botch an assisted suicide. After a brutal boxing match leaves the protagonist paralyzed and lands her in a care home where things go from bad to worse, she asks her mentor to help her end her life. He does so by removing her ventilator and giving her a lethal dose of adrenaline. In Real Life, not only would this be completely unnecessary (medical professionals must comply with a conscious and competent patient's request to be taken off life support), but death by adrenaline overdose is a fairly awful way to go.
In the Sherlock Holmes parody The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It featuring John Cleese, Watson pulls out a dagger from a still-living human, is told that it will cause bleeding, then puts back the dagger... killing the poor guy.
Sherlock:(examining the body) The knife was removed to alleviate the victim's pain. The knife was then re-inserted in an attempt to stem the bleeding. This second insertion was the cause of death. Watson: God lord, Holmes, how on Earth could you tell that? Sherlock: I was watching you from the doorway, and frankly I couldn't believe my eyes.
Especially bad as Watson in the original stories is not only a physician, he served in the second Anglo-Afghan War in the (British) Army Medical Corps. You'd think he'd know how to deal with this sort of thing.
The Ruins... oh, good lord, The Ruins: first, they accidentally drop a guy a couple of stories, discover that he can't move or even feel his legs, and — even though they speculate that he may have a broken back and argue that it is a bad idea — proceed to pick him up between them and move him (horrific crunch noises included). Then they decide to amputate his infected legs by breaking his bones with a rock and cauterizing the stumps with a frying pan.All.On. Screen.
All of this on the advice of a pre-med student. Two of them were pre-med students, actually.
In The Edge, one character fell into a trap and was impaled on a wooden spike. He ends up dying just before the survivors were rescued after the spike was pulled out of his body. It doesn't right out state it, but it's clear he bled out. Since the survivor has a good reason not to let him live, this could be intentional.
In Dead Snow, one of the main characters is bitten on the arm by a zombie. He quickly arrives at the logical conclusion that this will turn him into a zombie as well (because that's what he has seen in films), and saws his own arm off with a chainsaw, applying a tourniquet afterward to keep from bleeding to death. As he turns and grins triumphantly, another zombie bites him... in the crotch.
A similar joke got used in the comic book Hitman, when a panicked character bitten by a zombie animal got a friend to saw off his hand. The punchline? The zombie-germ didn't affect living animals. He would have been fine.
Subverted in Jurassic Park. Game warden Muldoon and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler find Ian Malcolm delirious, moaning, and with a broken leg, having barely survived a T. rex attack. They want to take him back with them for treatment, but consider the possibility that he has internal injuries they can't see.
Ellie: Do we chance moving him? (T. rex roars somewhere in the vicinity) Malcolm: (sits up) Please, chance it.
In the original book, Malcolm is nowhere near as lucid, and Muldoon and Gennaro make the decision of moving him themselves (thankfully, there's no immediate threat to put the pressure on them). However, his injuries are severe enough, and he goes without proper treatment so long, that he dies from them near the end of the book. At least, until the sequel.
In Starship Troopers (the film anyway), Rico's girlfriend / fling Dizzy is impaled through the intestines by one of the bugs. He gets her to safety with the bugs leg still attached and then immediately yanks it out, causing her to bleed to death about 30 seconds later. She may well have survived if he'd just kept it in there long enough to make it back to a medical station.
In Mission Impossible III, Michelle Monaghan beats the crap out of her patient - that is, performs multiple precordial chest thumps to restore an asystolic heart. While she should now have a corpse with a broken sternum, this instead brought him back to life. At the very least they averted Magical Defibrillator earlier in the film when they planned to use the defibrillator to temporarily flatline the patient in order to short out her cranial bomb.
In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah takes a bullet to the leg in the final car chase, and fashions a makeshift tourniquet from her shirt.
Detective John McClane ends up doing this in the original Die Hard. After pulling out all the shards of glass from his feet, McClane uses the tank top he's been wearing throughout most of the film as a tourniquet to bandage the foot which is bleeding the most. It's not much help though as he's shown leaving a trail of bloody footprints on his way to the roof.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Generally, mouth-to-mouth is not going to work if a drowning victim's lungs are still full of water. When she came to, Amy coughed up what seemed like a gallon of water.
In Die Another Day, Jinx is unconscious underwater an awfully long time for her to come to that quickly when James Bond rescues her and just gives her mouth-to-mouth.
In another movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, Wai Lin spends quite some time in the water before Bond dives in and gives her a Kiss of Life while still submerged.
The guy's wife was also underwater for anywhere between twenty minute to a half hour.
Deconstructed in True Grit. In the original, the protagonist applies the correct treatment for a snake bite and the victim recovers without much damage, in the remake he uses the "suck out the poison method." Said victim loses an arm in the remake. It helps that in the remake they don't have any method to treat it so Cogburn tries to get her to a doctor as soon as possible, but it takes some time...
This is an interesting case. When the original was made, the first aid being taught was the suck-out-the-poison method. Sometime between the two, conventional wisdom decided that did more harm than good and the treatment shifted back to the simpler "tourniquet, wound lower than heart, don't cut, don't suck". So in both cases the method used in the film is not the one being recommended at the time, but an older treatment.
Drag Me to Hell has one of the worst displays of CPR on film ever, where the rescuer applies his chest compressions to the victim's shoulder.
In Final Destination 5, a character is getting an acupuncture treatment and is left alone to take a short nap. A fire then breaks out in the room, and he falls off the bed onto the floor, getting impaled by the needles. Still alive, he gets up and immediately pulls out one of the needles, which looks like it may very well have pierced his heart.
In Kick-Ass, after Dave is hit by a car, the next scene shows the paramedics putting a C-collar on him to immobilise his spine... in the back of the ambulance. Meaning that they have already moved him quite a bit, which makes the whole thing pointless.
Used for comedy in The Heat when Ashburn, who was just getting chewed out by her partner for always thinking she knows better than everyone else, sees a guy next to them in the diner start choking. Ashburn, who had half-watched a medical programmer about tracheotomies earlier in the film, springs into action and nearly kills the guy. The EMT who takes the guy to the hospital minces no words explaining how dumb a move this was.
The four boys in Stand by Me remove leeches from their bodies by simply ripping them off, which in Real Life would cause the leeches to vomit into the wounds and increase the risk of infection. The correct way to remove them is to gently pry both of their mouths off of the skin.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: Deliberately Played for Laughs when Ricky tries to convince his friends that his psychosomatic paralysis is real by sticking a knife in his leg. Cue montage of everyone jumping around panicking and trying to get the knife out, with one of their more ridiculous attempts consisting of prying the knife out with an other knife.
Subverted in Epic. When a shrunken MK sees Queen Tara dying from an arrow to her chest, she refrains from pulling it out because she's not sure if it's the best thing to do in the situation or not. The queen still dies, but she's clearly beyond help.
X-Men: First Class: If someone's been shot in the back near the spine, you don't move them around and you certainly don't rip the bullet out of the wound, which probably explains Xavier's ultimate paralysis.
The Last Book in the Universe is one of many works in which a character undergoing a seizure gets a stick stuck in his mouth to prevent him from biting his tongue. In this case, it doesn't quite work as intended—the stick simply breaks in half. (In real life, this is a fortunate outcome, since he could have broken his jaw instead.)
A similar occasion comes up in John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy when a Marine colonel has to help a military man who's swallowed his tongue during a seizure; the colonel reaches in and pulls the tongue out of the airway. In reality, you can't swallow your tongue, though you can bite it pretty hard; sticking a hand or an object in the mouth to prevent this is a good way to choke the patient, damage the jaw, or damage the hand.
Twilight: After Bella is attacked by James, she's immediately dosed up on morphine, one of the most potent and dangerous painkillers, because apparently Carlisle is able to carry the stuff around with him. As Edward goes to carry her out of the ballet studio, he tells her that it's fine for her to go to sleep, even though she lost a lot of blood and had her head violently smashed around to the point where she had cracks in her skull. Furthermore, since Edward has boasted about how he has two medical degrees, he ought to, you know, know about the dangers of comas. Then there's the bit at the hospital, where Bella's heart stops when she and Edward kiss and the nurses don't notice at all. Even though she just had transfusions and was smashed to bits and was hooked up to a heart monitor. Also, apparently Edward is the one who can tell the nurses when Bella needs to be medicated.
Parodied in Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need, which advises, in case of snakebite, to put a tourniquet on the snake.
Bernard Cornwell's Starbuck Chronicles set in the American Civil War features a doctor reviving a man by pouring caustic iodine on his balls.
Doctor: Works every time. I call it the Lazarus Effect.
Truth in Television, unfortunately - Civil War doctors really did use this to try and bring people out of unconsciousness and comas. In some cases it was felt that a declining heartbeat could be increased by doing this too.
Averted in Matthew Arnold's epic poem Sohrab and Rustum. When Sohrab is fatally wounded by his father Rustum, he deliberately leaves the impaling spear where it is while he and Rustum have a last heart-to-heart, and only after the conversation is over does Sohrab pull out the spear in order to die as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Discussed in the Mongolian novel Oyuun, where the title character's friend is impaled with a knife that has been coated in a poison that will, if it gets through her bloodstream in sufficient doses, stop her breathing. They don't know if the half-coated knife has sufficient dosage to pose a threat or not or if it's such a danger the knife should be pulled, but Oyuun does know better than to remove something impaling someone. Ultimately, she seems to pass out from the poison's side effects when they leave the knife in, but she pulls it out during the climax and saves her friend's lives by stabbing the villain in the back repeatedly. It's the villain's own knife, to boot.
In the third book of the Serpentwar Saga, Rupert makes a poultice for Luis' wound out of randomly selected pieces of vegetation and nearly poisons him.
In Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, Bethany pulls a badly injured girl from a car wreck despite the fact that the car was neither on fire nor about to explode. She doesn't do it very well, either. The girl is near-death and bleeding from a head wound, yet Bethany throws the girl's arm over her shoulder and hauls her out of the vehicle.
Justified use and aversion in Thieves Like Us. The villain accidentally shoots the decrepit leader of a very devoted cult in the chest, and tries to revive him with CPR. This does nothing to help him (partially because he's ancient and mostly because he was, you know, shot), but the cult members start closing in immediately and it's clear she's screwed if she doesn't save their leader somehow. With it clear he was beyond help, the cult members immediately kill her.
In Farscape episode Relativity, Stark performs some Worst Aid on Rygel, being pretty inexperienced, he sows Rygel's wounds shut- effectively sowing the open wound shut, but also managing to sow Rygel's robes into his flesh.
In the episode "Search and Rescue", Sheppard is impaled in the side by a piece of metal. Ronon yanks it out and bandages the wound. This is wrong in so many ways.
Ronon has also pulled an arrow out of his own leg once and popped his dislocated shoulder back into place. (It is possible to fix a dislocated shoulder, but it is incredibly, brutally painful — especially when it's your own.) In another episode, he also has a huge shard of something in his shoulder. The doctor, clearly not familiar with his patient, eventually gives up arguing with Ronon about taking it out and tells him to do it himself. Cue the doctor's frantic protests when Ronon tries to do just that.
In an earlier episode, McKay gets slashed in the arm when the Genii decide to torture him a bit, and shows up the next day with a bandage... around his sleeve. Well, he is a bit of a attention-monger, and probably put it there intentionally.
In the episode "Brain Storm," a victim of hypothermia is rescued and wrapped in a blanket, but allowed to walk around in the same cold, damp clothes she had previously been wearing. This is presumptively over half an hour after she was rescued. At the very least, people should have been concerned about her catching pneumonia.
In one later episode of Stargate SG-1, someone who really should be more mature freaks out when he might have to give mouth-to-mouth to General Hammond, and is profoundly relieved when he wakes up on his own.
Captain Archer bandages Shran's leg when he gets a stalagmite stuck through it in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "The Aenar", though Shran lifted his leg off the stalagmite himself.
The British music movie 24 Hour Party People shows the ultimate in not helping an epileptic fit — Backstage as Joy Division's Ian Curtis has a fit, bassist Hooky, instead of offering any help, bends down and retrieves his cigarettes from Ian's pocket; "he's still got me fags". Acording to an interview with Q magazine this really did did happen, but it was drummer Steve Morris and not Hooky looking for cigarettes.
Supernatural had Sam scooping Dean up and cradling him after he'd been hit with enormous force by a car (he got better), with blithe disregard for his spinal column.
Supernatural varies widely on this one: one the one hand, the ECG is actually showing a shockable rhythm when a defibrillator is used (unlike the vast majority of TV shows, who are lucky enough to have Magical Defibrillators); on the other hand, they attempt CPR on a person who has been shot in the heart. You've got to wonder what exactly they were expecting to achieve there.
In an episode of Psych, Shawn's captor attempts to treat his bullet wound by duct taping a chamois to the outside of his shirt. Even worse is the fact that he never even bothers to cover the gaping hole that is the exit wound. Also, his captor refers to it as "a flesh wound".
In an episode of Due South, a man is hit by a car and Fraser carries him to the hospital, hoisted over his shoulders. Apparently no one thought to call an ambulance. The justification they give is that he only wanted to be treated by his own doctor. The whole thing turns out to be a conspiracy involving an insurance scam.
Parodied in Corner Gas: Brent and Hank move Wanda (specifically, toss her up and down) because they don't believe her back is really hurt... and this makes her get better.
Lampshaded in Scrubs with the Todd's Miracle Five. To quote Dr. Cox: "Great moment there, dumbass. It starts out with a profound misunderstanding of how the human body works and winds up with you shattering some old man's hand."
Subverted in LOST; after taking a gunshot to the shoulder in the first season finale, Sawyer proceeds to dig the bullet out of the wound with his fingers, making the wound that much worse and contributing to an infection which leaves him bad shape for the first part of season two.
Played straight when Michael was injured by a boar in season 1, Kate put a bandage right over his pant leg.
Played in Teen Wolf. The treatment of Erica's seizures is downright unrealistic. During her first one in "Shape Shifted", Allison instructs Scott to put her on her side while she's seizing. In reality, she would flail violently enough to smack him away if he tried that. You're meant to wait out the seizure and put them on their side AFTERWARDS in case they vomit.
In "Restraint", Scott goes ahead and picks her up even though, again, that would be nearly impossible with a real seizure victim. Of course, she was conscious and talking, so maybe Kanima poison-induced seizures are different.
Somewhat averted in the TV movie The Lost Battalion. A soldier with a giant piece of shrapnel in his shoulder is asked if he wants it removed, to which he shrugs and decides to leave it in. In this case leaving it in place is the proper course of action. However, it is unclear whether he really understood the consequences of removing it, or whether he just wanted to be a manly man.
Typically subverted in ER. There's even an incident in Season 6 where Dr. Kovac tells a cop in a mass shooting scene to stop giving CPR to a victim who suffered a catastrophic headshot.
Law & Order: SVU episode Bombshell has the wonderful scene where "a bystander yanked the knife out" and his girlfriend "tried sticking it back in" when it started spurting blood all over.
Martha saves The Doctor's life in her introductory episode . . . with CPR. When the problem was blood loss. And she's supposed to be a medical student.
Much, MUCH worse was the entire CPR scene in The Curse of The Black Spot where the Narm-driven reason for choosing Amy as CPR operator was suspect, her execution was cringe-worthy, she gave up after less than 2 minutes (which proved the aforementioned suspicions about her to be valid) and there was a potential second operator (the Doctor) just standing around doing nothing.
Averted in Rescue 911 - many episodes show people who realize someone has a neck injury and say, "Uh oh - better not move them".
This is how Tobias Funke lost his medical license (a psychotherapy license!), by giving CPR to a man that needed none and breaking several ribs. Then he demonstrated his life-saving intent in court and broke more ribs.
This trope was poked fun at in the first episode of the first season of Black Adder. Edmund cuts off the king's head, then tries to revive him by placing it back on and pumping the kings arms up and down. Needless to say, it didn't work.
In an episode of Sanctuary, while cut off from professional help, Will Zimmerman doses himself with morphine several times despite having sustained a head injury bad enough to temporarily blind him.
On Las Vegas, Mike passes out from anaphylaxis while visiting a Wyoming ranch because he's allergic to horses. One of the wranglers injects him with her Epi-pen, and he revives immediately and goes back to hanging around with horses, even though epinephrine injections are a temporary lifesaving measure to buy time for the victim to get to the hospital for observation and possible antihistamine therapy.
999 (so named for the UK emergency services number) was a show that reconstructed real-life emergency rescues, but in most episodes would have a segment showing what to do if someone is choking, injured, having a heart attack, or similar. They would specifically refer to common instances of Worst Aid and explain to the viewer why such things are dangerous.
In Band of Brothers, Moose is accidentally shot by a friendly sentry. Winters and Welsh provide first aid until the medic arrives. Doc Roe promptly informs them that they gave Moose a morphine overdose, which is far more likely to kill him than the bullets were, and chews them out for being that stupid.
Horrible Histories has the Historical Paramedics, whose patients presumably only survive onslaughts of historically accu-rat Worst Aid because the Historicals run away when a "proper ambulance" approaches.
Stuart Geoff: Madam. I'm sorry. We've done all we can do.
Woman: You've made him worse!
Stuart Geoff: Yes, that's... pretty much all we can do.
Breaking Bad, one of the drug dealers demands (at gun point) Walter to do "breath into his mouth and stuff" to the guy said drug dealer just beat to death. Walter points out that the technique is outdated, and it doesn't work.
The Walking Dead, Andrea decides to prove that Beth isn't suicidal (immediately after the death of her mother and brother) by leaving her alone to do what she wants. Then, when Beth's attempted suicide (which she's spent the entire episode actively seeking) fails, Andrea concludes "She wants to live." No, dumbass, she wants to die, she just didn't do it right.
Deconstructed in an episode of CSI: Miami. A witness to a stabbing is telling the story and finishes by saying he removed the knife when the victim asked him to... and the investigator is quick to tell him that's the absolute worst thing he could have done as can lead to fatal blood loss.
On the 1989 "The Main Event" – the installment that saw Randy Savage turn against Hulk Hogan during their tag team match against Big Bossman and Akeem – when Miss Elizabeth is knocked unconscious (after Akeem throws Savage onto her), a distraught Hogan rushes to her side and picks her body up without allowing the medics to render proper first aid. In kayfabe, nothing happens – she just "regains consciousness" on cue and sends Hogan back to the ring; had these been real life injuries, her neck could possibly have been broken or internal injuries aggravated to the point of being fatal.
Incidentally, Savage was guilty of this at least twice, in matches against André the Giant when Andre grabbed Elizabeth's ankle and allegedly broke it; instead of allowing officials to check out the "injury," Savage merely carried her to the back of the arena.
At a WCW Clash of the Champions show in 1989 (Sept. 12 to be exact), Terry Funk "suffocated" Ric Flair with a plastic bag. Brian Pillman ran in and gave him mouth-to-mouth, using a towel as a mouth barrier. A surprising subversion, nearly a decade before Steve Urkel used a barrier when giving Carl Winslow CPR.
One episode of RAW that featured JBL being slammed through the roof of his go-to-the-ring limo. (This was before he went to just announcing.) The medics dragged his "unconscious" body out of the limo by one foot and then got out the neck collar and backboard.
An episode of Nitro had one of the wrestlers injured. The paramedics said it looked like a neck injury. Then they moved him on the stretcher... by the neck.
True to the LEGO Island example below, Enter and Return fill this role in Dino Attack RPG. This is also an in-universe example seeing as the other doctors (with the exception of Dietrich "Medic" Luzweit) are portrayed slightly more realistically and (understandably) are somewhat uncertain about two paramedics who believe sharks, trees, umbrellas, and envelopes are valid surgical equipment and spend their spare time arguing about their clothes (for the record, they're Always Identical Twins). The humor was even taken further when Dr. Shaw found out to her horror that their boss Dr. Clickitt didn't even know what a medical liscense is. However it is partially subverted in that their methods can work (although their reliability is debatable).
In Dungeons & Dragons, it's possible to accidentally injure or even kill your patient if you try to heal someone and screw up the skill check badly enough.
In Feng Shui, the weird arcanotech 'slap patches' from the 2056 juncture have a very good chance of harming an injured character further, rather than healing them. Some players have been known to use them as weapons.
In Paranoia, the role of docbots is to show up after a firefight and kill off the survivors. Well, The Computer says otherwise, but when their standard peripherals include surgical chainsaws...
In World of Darkness, a person who is untrained in Medicine suffers a pretty serious penalty, enough to reduce the vast majority of people to a situation where they have an 80% chance of doing nothing, a 10% chance of helping, and a 10% chance of a "dramatic failure", which is defined as something that makes the situation actively worse. Needless to say, most groups actively prevent a character with no training in this area from administering the help to injured players (assuming they have a choice).
You can increase your health (even above 100%!) with alcoholic drinks and painkillers in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex The Fall.This still works, with no ill-effects, if you take them at the same time.
In Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, the antagonist commits Seppuku, and you need him alive. Solution? Oh just rip that knife right out of him. Just for good measure, shoot the windows out of the underwater base so you can carry him while swimming. In this life-or-death situation where seconds count, Sam takes the time to respectfully set the knife down.
In the same game, players can heal damage by using a first aid cabinet. While this seems fine at first glance, it soon becomes apparent he just grabs the first bottle in reach from a cabinet he doesn't own, and then takes a large swig without reading it. If this wasn't bad enough, multiple uses mean he grabs different bottles each time, meaning he could be swallowing pretty much anything.
Far Cry 2 requires the player to perform quick "medical care" in the field when injured if his or her health drops to one bar. This generally involves resetting broken bones with your bare hands (which promptly begin working immediately), pulling pieces of shrapnel and stray branches from your gut (which doesn't cause the wound to start spurting blood all over the place), and removing bullets with (dirty) pliers, all without even bandaging the wound up and immediately getting back into the fight. If your health is at least two bars, healing involves simply injecting yourself with a shot of morphine. If a buddy is critically injured, you can heal them simply by injecting them as well. Otherwise, the only options are comforting them in their passing or blowing their brains out to hasten it.
The sequel tones it down and adds a little realism to it.note The term "little" is the key word here. Makeshift surgery is reserved to when you have no medication or other healing items, removing foreign objects has Jason immediately bandage the wounds to try and reduce bleeding, and the act only heals a little. It should be noted, however, that Jason still does downright stupid things that include removing a bullet with a dirty stick or his teeth.
In Left 4 Dead, similar to the RE2 example below, you heal yourself or others by wrapping bandages on your/their clothing, and always in the same spots, too. Or, if you're in a hurry, by swallowing an entire bottle of painkillers, enough to kill an average person. Lampshaded in the sequel, as the survivors say they don't know exactly what they're doing. It still works, somehow.
The sequel also has adrenaline shots which the survivors will jam into their thighs pretty hard and not even bothering to check where on the leg they are injecting the stuff and you can use it several times without any drawbacks. Adrenaline is mainly used for people with an allergic reaction or suffering from a heart attack to help stabilize the body.
Due to a programming oversight with the survivor AI, they will often try and heal players at the most inconvenient times, such as when they're trying to move somewhere safe, or in rare cases in the middle of combat. The only way to get them to stop is to stop what you're doing and pull out your own first aid kit or pills. On the higher difficulties, this distraction can be lethal.
In Resident Evil 2, when Leon is injured, Ada dresses the wound... by wrapping the bandages outside his clothes. In this case it's Rule of Perception, since if she takes the uniform off, applies the bandage, and then puts the uniform back on, all off screen, the bandage won't be visible, leaving the audience to wonder if she did anything.
Subverted in Resident Evil 6. When Sherry is impaled by a large shard of metal, Jake initially refuses to remove it, knowing that they would bleed out in seconds. They insist, and reveals their Healing Factorfrom the G-virus within her body, which mutated after she received the vaccine in 2.
Tomb Raider (2013): Within the opening moments of the game, Lara falls onto a piece of rebar and is impaled through the gut by it. She then proceeds to pull it out, and said wound getting aggravated or worse impedes her progress more than once over the course of the game.
Optional in The Oregon Trail. You can administer proper medical treatments, but sometimes you're in a different mood, and choose to rub ice on frostbite, rub salt on infected wounds (resulting in gangrene), or advise the guy who was bitten by a rattlesnake to get plenty of exercise. They die soon afterward.
You can also administer treatments that are a bit different, not so much as evil as ineffective. For example, giving olive oil to someone with a cold (which likely won't do much), or giving them vinegar (not exactly what they need; but it might kill bacteria in the throat) or putting alcohol on a sprain (probably not going to relieve pain).
In World of Warcraftbandages heal everything, be it slashes, blunt trauma or damage done by any sort of magic. However, they are not really effective - in combat the best they can do nowadays is heal Scratch Damage while anything more serious or urgent requires actual healing magic, and out of combat they are outshone by simply sitting down and eating something.
The sequel, Team Fortress 2, gets in on the Comedic Sociopathy angle by giving players access to a new weapon, the Crusader's Crossbow. The Medic can fire at enemies to harm them, or he can fire it at his allies to increase their health.
Actually, the Doktor period. While performing open-heart surgery he has the patient hold their chest cavity open while he pushes the organ (which he had previously extracted) up through the bottom of their ribcage before pointing his "side-effect of healing" weapon at them. Also: "Don't worry, ribs grow back! [whispers] No they don't." All of this is done without gloves. Gloves he later puts on to kill people with.
[A dove covered in blood climbs out of Heavy's torso] Medic: (shooing the bird) Archimedes! No! It's filthy in there!
To give an idea how bad he is: This is a hospital procedure he's performing.
An old PC/Mac Roman-fantasy RPG by the name of Nethergate was designed that if you attempted to administer first aid with too low of a skill in such, you had a chance to actually deal damage instead, usually enough to kill the person in question if they were in a scenario that was deserving of first aid in the first place.
The first three Avernum games, which ran on the same engine, had the same rule. Since for some reason, the First Aid skill could only be used once per day, and players typically didn't bother to put points in it, this generally meant you were better off just using White Magic to heal yourself.
In Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 you heal your injured teammates by jamming a needle into them. Anywhere on their body. Your ally could have been filled with lead and all that's required to get them back in the fight is a needle stab to the face, groin, or foot coupled with a quick, motivational "You're good to go." To top it off, the needle is removed in a manner that's very likely to snap the end off.
Modern Warfare makes the curious mistake of having the computer-generated NPCs do CPR wrong. The usual justification for the sort of "bent elbows" CPR (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZguxm-Sqtc#t=7m20s ) common in media mentioned in the opening of this article doesn't really apply. In this case it seems to be a case of art imitating art, even after the reason has disappeared. Another theory is that in the age of motion capture work being used to give the most natural realistic looking movements in games, the team used to play the NPCs couldn't do straight arms without hurting the actor playing the injured person, so it's been grandfathered in even though actual actors are no longer used.
Averted in later versions of America's Army. You are given an "Individual First Aid Kit" but are made to sit through a lesson which teaches you what treatment to use for each symptom before you're allowed to use it. All are correct battlefield first aid techniques taught by the Army to average soldiers, although the lesson is condensed. However, during a firefight, when a team member goes down, it's often fairly hard to pay attention too long to the symptoms with bullets whizzing by — though one could say that that's the point. Gameplay wise, this just amounts to running up to an injured ally and holding the 'Use' button to patch them up, and ironically, there have been reports of people using what they learned in America's Army to save lives in the real world.
Max Payne recovers health through the use of painkiller pills. Apparently whatever is in those pills can heal bullet wounds.
The sequel somewhat averts this, as he looks more and more roughed up, bandaged and wounded through the course of the game. The Painkillers could mainly be a way to 'continue' fighting, despite the wounds. A little far-fetched, but a Hand Wave is supposed to be.
The Getaway is a particularly fine example. You've been shot multiple times? No problem! Just lean on this wall for a bit. It even launders clothes.
In Dragon Age: Origins, you heal with poultices. As in, the stuff you rub on the wound (though it's likely just being used as an alternate word for "potion"). The animation accompanying use of a poultice is drinking it.
Which is the inverse of potions in Final Fantasy, which are used by sprkinkling it over someone. Or occasionally throwing the bottle into their face.
In Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate, Mina's leg wound must be treated by using decapitated ant heads as impromptu sutures. This much is an actual medical technique, used by the Maasai people. You make the living ant bite the two sides of the wound together and rip its body off, leaving the pincers still in you◊, and it tends to actually work. What makes this fall squarely into Worst Aid territory is that you then apply raw herbs and a puddle-dipped rag to the wound—and that all of these items are procured by a wild monkey, all species of which are likely carriers for pathogens transmissible to humans.
In the multiplayer for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the Medic's only answer for reviving downed teammates who have been shot, stabbed, burned, or even blown up is to stab them with a syringe full of mystery chemicals. Plus, in the case of heavily wounded teammates, some medics won't even bother going through the effort of healing them and will kill the wounded teammate so he can revive him to full health instead.
Likewise, Battlefield 2 does the exact same thing except with defibrillators instead of syringes.
It was also implied that on at least one occasion, Enter and Return dropped a patient and left him.
In Metal Gear Solid 3; the treatment for being bitten by a leech is to burn it off with a cigar. If you do this to a leech in real life, it will vomit into the wound and increase the risk of infection. The correct way to remove a leech is to gently pry its mouths — yes, mouths; they have two of them — off of the skin. Usually it's done with one's fingers, but Snake still resorts to using the cigar...even though he's equipped with a combat knife.
The leech example is a pretty offensive one, but in general the game's often erroneously simple medicine mechanic is an Acceptable Break from Reality to cut down on the number of in-game medical supplies you need to gather and to reduce the complexity of the mechanic so as to not make it annoying. Some other examples: your combat knife can be used to dig out crossbow bolts, bullets, and bees, while rubbing ointment is sufficient to treatment shrapnel wounds.
Most likely due to the limitations of the engine, Fallout and Fallout 2 implement the First Aid and Doctor skills by causing the player character to wave his arms in front of the patient. Also, a first aid kit or doctor's bag are helpful, but not necessary (Fallout Tactics at least requires the appropriate medical kit to use the associated skills).
Two sidequests in Fallout: New Vegas require you to treat some patients in critical but stable condition. If your Medicine skill is sufficient you'll perform proper treatments (with congratulations from the attending doctor, who presumably is taking notes), but if it's insufficient you'll end up killing the patients in rather horrific ways, such as attempting a tracheotomy on a patient with a simple allergic reaction (he bleeds to death). You can also kill Caesar with improper brain surgery during "Et Tumor, Brute?".
After James leaves Vault 101 in Fallout 3, the resident Mister Handy robot is assigned to be the Vault's Autodoc. Beatrice meets her demise at his hands when he attempts to treat her sprained left big toe, but ends up amputating her right leg instead.
In Dwarf Fortress, occasionally dwarven diagnosticians and surgeons will do some astoundingly stupid things in the course of 'medicine,' such as not sewing a dwarf's intestines back inside them during surgery or leaving arrows (or a ballista bolt) in wounded dwarves while they recover. Summed up beautifully by this post on the community forums, wherein an unskilled dwarf misdiagnoses a minor cut on the arm. Hilarity Ensues.
Healers and Medics in Makai Kingdom favor the Syringe, which is as big as a person and filled with an unknown colorful liquid. Using its primary attack, the wielder leaps onto a target, stabs them with the rapier-sized needle, and heals them. Its secondary attack allows the wielder to place on the ground point-up and slam a victim onto the tip five times before throwing them away like trash. This transfers five amounts of health from the victim to the wielder. Since you need to use a weapon many times before unlocking the next attack, it's not uncommon for healers to follow allies around and injecting them even when they're healthy already.
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the medical personal some how can magical revive people who died from gunfire, explosions, and fire just with CPR, and still run into the enter the area the insane gun man (I.E. you) is still shooting up. That pales in comparison to all the people they run over in their pursuit of saving lives.
Amateur Surgeon puts you in the role of a Back-Alley Doctor charged with curing people who are literally Too Dumb to Live. Since you're not an actual surgeon, your tools are more make-shift, such as using a chainsaw to cut through ribcages.
Played for Laughs in the Assassin's Creed series, where you can hear doctors in Italy hawking their wears, including mixtures that include things like lead and suggesting bleeding for most ailments.
Played with in Red vs. Blue after Sarge gets shot in the head. Due to the limits of the physics engine, the creators took the limited actions the characters could to and had them Played for Laughs.
Sarge: What-what happened here? Simmons: Sir! You got shot in the head, so we gave you CPR and saved you, sir! Sarge: I've always believed in you, Simmons. Simmons: Uh...actually, it's Grif you should thank, sir. He did all the work. Sarge: Grif? Simmons: Yes, sir. Sarge:Grif — why in hell would you give somebody CPR for abullet wound in the head? That doesn't make a lick of sense! Grif:(sigh) You're welcome, sir. Sarge: I mean, it's also damn inconsistent! What would you do if they stabbed me in the toe? Rub my neck with aloe vera?
It doesn't help very much, and is even frequently lampshaded, when they get an actual medic — a medic who thinks CPR is a perfectly acceptable treatment for a bullet wound to the head, rubs someone's neck with aloe vera when his pinkie toe falls off, and has no clue what his medical scanning device actual means. As Doc himself said: Doctors make you better, medics make you more comfortable while you die. It doesn't help at all that, as he admitted to Church, he never even passed the MCAT to get into medical school in the first place.
Despite his failings, Doc does seem to have some measure of success. He diagnosed Tucker as pregnant (which he was, thanks to a parasitic alien spore), apparently helped save Wash's life at the end of Revelations, and was revealed to have explicitly saved Donut's life some time between the end of Revelations and episode 15 of Season Ten.
Terra: After the UEC air raid on the Resistance base Agrippa finds Eve in the ruins of the base with a chunk of conduit stuck through her abdomen. He shoves it out through her back. Several commenters called the authors on this.
Dr. Moley openly frowns upon more commonplace medical procedures. In fact when explaining his solution to pill overdoes, he made a point of stating that you need to shove a wet towel under your door to keep the ambulance from getting to you before you take another pill, because you know, it's not like you'll be comatose or anything.
Klay World: Despite this being a world where people are regularly subjected to the most bizarre deaths imaginable, the only medical assistance is provided by Dr. Bob, who means well but always finds a way to botch up the procedure, and ends up accidentally murdering the people he tries to save, along with the occasional innocent bystander.
Parodied on The Venture Bros.. When Dr. Venture gets stung in the neck by a scorpion, Hank puts a tourniquet on his neck to keep the venom from reaching his brain. Dr. Venture wakes up in the middle of the procedure and chastises his son for nearly strangling him to death.
All Artificial Respiration in cartoons takes the form of the Schafer method, lying the victim on his/her belly and shoving upwards and forwards from below the diaphragm. In cartoons this always squirts water comically from the mouth. Not a method used much nowadays.
In Futurama, Dr. Zoidberg is an extreme example, whose ability to distort his patients' bodies and have them somehow survive would be impressive if it were not The Future! One episode revealed that being "zoidberg" is a term for an incompetent doctor. Said episode involved a Chain of Deals with the Planet Express crew - except that the deals are surgery. By the end of treating Fry's stabbed hand Fry is turning into a Smurf, Leela has several extra vertebrae, Hermes has had his missing vertebrae replaced with someone else's body from the waist down, Scruffy is a head on a foot, Amy is hypnotized, and Bender has somehow become incontinent. Fortunately an Actual Doctor is able to fix most of it.
South Park has Hell's Pass Hospital, surely the worst hospital in any work of fiction ever, whether the desired effect is comedic OR dramatic. If Kenny is taken there, he will die, but it's a miracle that any of the kids taken there survive due to regular incompetance ranging from the head doctor just not having the faintest idea what's wrong, looking ridiculous by confirming that an exploded body is indeed dead, and diagnosing acts of physical bullying as serious medical emergencies, all the way down to replacing Kenny's heart with a baked potato and sending Butters to a vet because he was made up as a dog.
In the episode "The Ninja" of Dan Vs., the show's Butt Monkey, Chris, gets poisoned. When the paramedics arrived the senior confirms the patient is poisoned. The rookie paramedic panics and needlessly uses a defibrillator. As a bonus (perhaps due to lack of research) the rookie did it without applying the gel or putting them on the right parts of the chest. The senior paramedic then berates the rookie for his mistake.
In one episode of Family Guy, Peter gets his CPR card and Hilarity Ensues. Upon witnessing a minor fender-bender in which both men quickly check for injuries and find that they're both perfectly okay, he introduces himself as "Peter Griffin, CPR" and begins unnecessarily performing the procedure on one of the men before attempting to remove his pants because he "need[s] to see if you soiled yourself." His CPR card is quickly revoked.
This is sadly Truth in Television, and happens many times, from negligent medical personnel to well meaning but ultimately clueless Samaritans.
Also, this is seen throughout most of history, due lack of medical knowledge of the times, often resulted in treatments that either didn't do the patient any good, or only worsening of their condition. For example, medical bleeding, was used on such a wide range of ailments as the plague, swelling, or the common cold, only drained out the white blood cells needed to fight the infection.
Some British tropers who were in secondary school in the second half of the 1990s might recall an "instructional" First Aid video about putting someone in the Recovery Position when unconscious. The example used? A cyclist involved in a hit-and-run, a scenario with a very high probability of spinal injury. This might be a result of Science Marches On, as recovery prospects for spinal injuries are a lot better than they were ten years ago, but it's still cringe-worthy in hindsight.
Oh, and this same first-aid course apparently consisted of CPR, the Heimlich Manoeuvre and the Recovery Position and that was it. Nothing on recognising the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack -the subjects of major public-awareness campaigns so that people seek medical assistance before their condition becomes life-threatening- or dealing with burns, bleeding or a broken bone.
In one famous case, lifeguards were resuscitating a victim, but instead of breathing, they were saying, "breath, breath" as they did in practice.
Lot of people give CPR the same way many actors do - with their arms bent and using almost no pressure and breathing in mouth without covering the nose. Others start right, but stop when ribs break, thinking they did it wrong. One of first things said in first-aid courses is "If you hear loud cracks, don't stop. Those were ribs. They won't need them if they die." The 2010 standards revision suggests that compressions are more valuable than ventilations, so anyone without training is requested to do compression only CPR.
In Italian driving schools the teachers explain how to rescue victims of car crashes by keeping away anyone who isn't trained in first aid, specifically to prevent well-meaning but ignorant helpers from accidentally killing the patient.
United States President James Garfield was shot In the Back by a crazed office seeker in 1881. If the doctors had confined themselves to sewing him up and giving him chicken soup, Garfield probably would have lived. But since it was 1881 and the work of Louis Pasteur (the germ theory of disease) and Joseph Lister (antiseptic surgery) was not universally accepted, especially in America, the doctors spent much of the summer sticking unsterilized instruments and their bare unwashed fingers into Garfield's back as they tried to find the bullet. Because We Have to Get the Bullet Out. Garfield fell victim to out-of-control infection and died eleven weeks after he was shot.
In fact, Garfield's assassin defended himself at his trial with the argument "The doctors killed Garfield, I merely shot him" (which is technically true if you ignore the fact that the doctors wouldn't have been giving Garfield the treatment that led to the infection had he not been shot in the first place). The jury still found him guilty.
Later, Theodore Roosevelt decided to leave the bullet in after somebody tried to assassinate him, remembering that taking it out killed Garfield.
He was also just that badass. Roosevelt was shot at a campaign appearance. He gave his speech anyway (starting by saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose"), then sought medical treatment.
As mentioned on the Over-the-Shoulder CarryReal Life section, this as a result of the poor medical training most band crews/roadies tend to have probably exacerbated Yoshiki Hayashi's neck and back injuries. Crew and roadies carried him off the stage in ways that, if you have any knowledge of spinal cord injury, are absolutely cringeworthy. After he actually broke his neck onstage in 1995, he was carried offstage by untrained roadies rather than left in place to be properly removed from the stage by paramedics with proper stabilizing equipment, and his crew did the same thing after he collapsed from exhaustion in 2008 despite having existing spinal cord injury and no neck brace at the time.
If someone cannot walk under their own power and/or has had previous neck or back injuries (especially if they both can't walk/are unconscious AND have previous neck/back injuries), the proper way of handling the emergency is having someone call Emergency Services (911, 119, whatever your local number is) and mentioning the nature of the emergency, removing anything around them that could endanger them from being sharp or falling on them or being otherwise hazardous, and not moving them. Let the professionals do it.