Good Samaritan

Can doing good be punishable?

I recently participated in a first aid refresher course in Singapore, obliged by my Dive master training but also as I found it meaningful to actually refresh those skills that might come in handy one day. Last time I trained first aid & CPR was for my rescue diver course 5 years ago in Thailand so was about time, and also useful to learn the local guidelines and practices.

One question that came up often was the fact that by trying to help a victim, one might end up causing (more) harm.True, CPR might lead to broken ribs, and moving a victim to spinal injuries. Yet, acting in attempt of saving one’s life ought always be prioritized.

The disturbing point is the concern to get sued for causing harm by trying to help.

It seems a standard in first aid courses to teach practices such as the helper explaining the victim they want to try and assist as emergency first aid responders. This is taught to clarify the helper is not a medical professional but an everyday Joe wanting to assist, equipped with basic first aid skills. The first time I encountered this was in the PADI course in Thailand, which is based on US guidelines. Whilst I understand in the States one must be extra careful with any action they take as getting sued for something is a common norm there, I had never thought that this might be a concern in other countries as well.

To me, if a person is injured, it’s logical to try and help. Do the best you can. It’d never occur to me to expect that the first person running to help out in a need would have to be a medical professional. And even the profis make mistakes. I fear that such concerns of inflicting more harm than good will keep people from even trying to help. Shouldn’t it always be preferred that one does what’s possible and within skills and common sense, rather than ignoring a victim in a fear of potentially making a mistake?

In the Singapore course, the trainer tried to calm these concerns by explaining Singapore having laws protecting such “good samaritans” – good-willed people who are willing to act in hope of being able to help. Although I appreciate the effort to protect good-willed people, it concerns me that we need such common sense laws in the first place. What kind of person would sue a person who acted in a moment of distress, in the best attempt to help?

I want to believe in humanity and the good will of people, were they in the position of a victim or a helper. Because what’s left of us, if we were to stop and consider whether we should help or not? It shouldn’t be a question whether we should help or not, but how we can help.






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Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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