The Good Samaritan Law

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Why in News?

The President of India  has given assent to India’s first bill which will give legal protection to the good samaritans in Karnataka who help accidents victims with emergency medical care within the ‘Golden hour’. Now Karnataka has become the first state to give legal protection to good samaritans through a legislation due to rising incidents of accidental deaths in India, which saw 1,50,785 people getting killed in road accidents in 2016.

Who is Good Samaritan?

Good Samaritan is  “A person who with good faith, without expectation of reward and without any duty of care or special relationship, voluntarily comes forward to administer emergency care to an injured person.”

What is Golden Hour?

In medical parlance, ‘golden hour’ means the first hour after the accident.

  • In a survey conducted nation widely by Save Life, it was revealed that 50% of road accident deaths could have been avoided if rapid assistance and medical treatment was rendered.
  • The World Health Organisation also states that 50% of the victims die due to serious cardiovascular or nervous system injuries in the first 15 minutes and the rest can be saved by providing basic life support during the ‘Golden Hour’.

Whats the objective of the Legislation?

It is found that bystanders often times refrainfrom helping accident victims due to the fear of legal and procedural hassles they have to face. The legislation aims to give protection to good samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within the ‘golden hour’ and encourage people to provide first aid to victims without fear of harassment in the hands of police and investigations.

Why the need for this Legislation ?

  • There were around 4,80,000 road accidents in the country in 2016 in which over 1,50,000 people were killed.
  • In 2015, there were around 5 lakh road accidents in the country in which over 1,46,000 people were killed.

A good proportion of these deaths could have been avoided if victims had received emergency medical treatment on time. Even the Law Commission of India in a report has noted that over 50 per cent of road accident deaths can be averted with timely medical care within the first one hour. This led to 70,000 lives that could be saved.

This legislation is a huge milestone and will create an enabling atmosphere where bystanders feel protected by law and come forward to provide help to road crash victims. This will be a game-changer for Karnataka in reducing the number of road crash fatalities, the annual figure of which is around 11,000.

Features of the Legislation:

  • They will be exempted from repeated attendance in courts and police stations, in case attendance is mandatory, expenses of such “running around to courts and police stations” will be taken care through the proposed ‘Good Samaritan Fund’.

The goodSamaritan can leave immediately after admitting the accident victim to the hospitaland government as well as private hospitals are bound to give first aid to the accident victim according to the new legislation.

  •  A Good Samaritan Fund will be created to take care of all expenses in case of mandatory attendance of Samaritan at courts and police stations. The state government has to allocate a separate budget for the same.
  • Those who rush to offer aid to victims have to be educated about their rights by way of displaying a rights charter in hospitals.

Experts often cite the ‘bystanders effect’ as one of the key reasons behind apparent public apathy.

The bystander effect or bystander apathy is a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several factors contribute to the bystander effect, including ambiguity, cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility that reinforces mutual denial of a situation’s severity.

Some suggestions:

  • The main challenge is to communicate to people that they have a new right and they should feel confident to exercise it.
  • The law is not just for an accident victim but It is for any injured person on the road. Therefore, the state government has to first allocate funds from the state budget to the health ministry that is the custodian of the law.
  • Presently there is no central law to protect the good Samaritans. The Union Surface Transport Ministry had issued a set of guidelines in 2015 following a Supreme Court order to protect people who come ahead to help road accident victims. The next step should definitely be a Good Samaritan law centrally.
  • The road safety problem is multi-faceted and requires to be assessed from a much broader lens of understanding. There is a larger problem of law and order. Unplanned, flawed road design and engineering, road rage are other issues that need serious attention of policy makers.
  • Grievance redressal mechanism need to be set up to take penal action against those who do not abide by the law and harass the Good Samaritans or medical professionals.

By:  RichaAggarwal


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