Samaritan support

People who offer help are made culprits in the case.

The Central government has done well to start working on a plan to make it easy for witnesses  of road accidents to go to the aid of  victims and to provide them timely assistance by taking them to hospitals. It is planning to frame guidelines to protect willing witnesses, who may be called good Samaritans, from harassment by the police and legal difficulties later if they report accidents and take victims to hospitals. The government’s move has come after an NGO filed a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for judicial immunity for good Samaritans in accident situations. It has given an assurance to the court that an inter-ministerial committee is being set up to study the matter and frame the guidelines which are to be followed. There is already a Supreme Court order against harassment of doctors attending on accident victims. This should cover good Samaritans also and should be given legislative support.

It is proposed that those who provide first aid to victims and take them for medical treatment should not be forced to reveal their identities. They should also not be forced to go to police stations to give statements, and if it is strictly necessary in certain situations, the police will have to visit them at home for enquiry. It is often police harassment and fear of legal problems and paper work that dissuade people from assisting victims on the spot. There are instances in which those who offer help are made culprits in the case. Because of this many people who want to help turn away from the accident scene. The result is sometimes fatal for the victims. The first few minutes after the accident, which are  called the golden hour, is important in saving the victim’s life or in minimising the damage due to injuries.  The victims have a right to immediate medical assistance and this should be guaranteed.

In many countries the law makes it the responsibility of witnesses to take accident victims to hospital. Even if this is not possible, the law should ensure that nobody will have to pay a price with his time, money and peace of mind for trying to help a person in need and distress.  India leads the world in road accidents and resulting deaths. While there are many reasons for this, the problem of non-availability of immediate medical attention can be addressed to some extent if passersby are assured of protection and freedom from harassment.

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