Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for Good Samaritan Laws.

So, here is something I know absolutely nothing about. This post will be largely made up from sources on the internet and my own opinion, and so may actually be something which you readers find interesting.
There are a couple of concepts that I think you need to get your head around before I begin.

A duty to rescue is a concept in tort law which arises in circumstances whereby a party can be held liable for failing to come to the rescue of another party in peril.

There is no such duty in English Law.

In some countries, there is a legal requirement for citizens to assist people in distress, unless doing so would put themselves or others in harms way.
The Good Samaritan Law in France creates a legal obligation upon onlookers or passers-by to help someone in danger unless doing so would put themselves in danger or harms way.

Good Samaritan Laws are criticised heavily - if anything they can be seen to put a duty on the passer-by and restrict his freedom and what he can do. Furthermore, omissions (failure to act) are not supposed to give rise to liability as they do not in themselves cause harm. It was argued that a duty to rescue is a forced altruism, and that this is wrong. - the link on this argument is found here.
Many good Samaritan statutes are criminal statutes, and they are there to punish undesirable behaviour. (use the link above to find a more detailed argument.) Many people are unaware of the position they are in when they see someone in distress - would a statute not morally point individuals in the right direction?

Arguments, however, can go both ways with regards to the good Samaritan concept. Is this a legal duty, or is it a moral duty?
There are arguments that suggest that morality and law should not be intertwined. In many cases, the law should be independent from morality, otherwise even the smallest white lie would be prosecutable. Adultery, for example, would be prosecutable. (Don't think I condone adultery, as I don't, I'm just unable to think of a better example currently.)

As my laptop is on the verge of dying, I shall have to leave this argument here. I hope it has given you something to think about - do you believe the UK or other countries should have a Good Samaritan Law, and why?


  1. I don't know much about Good Samaritan laws. I think a few states in the US have them. I don't have any opinion on it (sorry) but I do feel it's a sad state of affairs that anyone would think we even need Good Samaritan laws. I understand that some people may not want to endanger themselves by getting physically involved in a violent crime, but how hard is it to call 911 (or whatever emergency number is used in the UK)?

    1. I know hardly anything of them, just thought I'd teach myself about them a little. Thanks for reading, and I agree- it is a shame that some countries feel the need to impose these duties on passers-by. Its not much effort to call 911 (999 in the UK) or even shout for help!

  2. Being in the health care field Good Samaritan Laws are important to us providers! In the US each state has a different version of it. They originally were designed to protect health care providers from being sued for rendering aid in an emergency. Now many states extend the protection to lay people as well. I believe it's Vermont that actually requires people by law to stop and help.
    I agree with Nifer that we shouldn't need a law to tell us to stop and help, but one would think a person wouldn't sue someone who tried to help them.

    1. That's useful to know, and I can see why they'd bring them in if you look at it that way. Its a shame that widows or family members of victims who have died feel the need to sue the person who tried to help them in the first place.
      I agree too, and thanks for sharing your knowledge here, I know nothing about how these laws work in the US and I didn't want to post assumptions :)