What is it?
A law is being introduced in the state of Karnataka, India to protect “Good Samaritans” who assist in road traffic and other accidents and emergency situations. The bill is called “Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during emergency situations) Bill.* It is to ensure that there is quick medical attention for accident victims and encourage people to offer first aid to victims without the fear of legal proceedings.
The bill encourages citizens to offer assistance without fear of criminal or civil liability, or be forced to be a witness. The examination of a volunteer as a witness shall be done only on a single occasion and without harassment or intimidation. It will ensure that Good Samaritans are not repeatedly summoned to attend court and other legal proceedings. State government will institute a system of reward and compensation to encourage more bystanders to be Good Samaritans. It provides for action to be initiated against officials or police violating these guidelines. Hospitals have to provide treatment without waiting for usual procedures.
In addition the bill has a provision to reimburse expenses incurred by a Good Samaritan who assists an accident victim, including a taxi fare to take the victim to hospital. The state has allocated Rs5 crore** for this purpose.
These statements are in itself very revealing as to why people do not get involved in accidents. Coming from the UK it is difficult to imagine having to deal with these issues. We are taught from a very early age to dial 999 in an emergency and request the appropriate service (ambulance, police, fire or coastguard). These services are ‘free’ and paid for through taxation. There is also legal protection for those called as witnesses in legal cases with employers compelled to give the time off.
I have discussed with staff previously about reluctance to get involved in accidents and offer assistance. They quite clearly stated that they would be liable for ambulance and hospital charges (be thankful for the NHS UK citizens) and the obligation to go to court meant that they may lose their jobs as days off have to be taken to attend and they do not get paid for loss of earnings or travel costs.
I hope that the introduction of this law will indeed mean that people will help their fellow citizens in accident and emergency situations and the world (or at least the state of Karnataka) will become a kinder place to live.
* I am intrigued that a state in a Hindu nation is naming a bill after a parable in the Bible.