Need to protect good samaritans

Need to protect good samaritans

The government’s recent notification of the guidelines for protection of good samaritans coming  forward to take road accident victims to hospitals will help many people who would otherwise be denied timely medical treatment. The term good samaritans is used for those who witness an accident or pass by an accident site and want to take the victims to the nearest hospital. But the legal and procedural complications and harassment from the police discourage many people from taking prompt action to help the victims. The Supreme Court had directed the government, on the basis of a PIL, to frame guidelines in this respect. The court has approved the guidelines and told the government to give wide publicity to them. With their notification now, many people injured in accidents can hope to get prompt treatment. The first few minutes after an accident are called the golden hour and many lives can be saved if the victims are taken to hospital without loss of time.

The guidelines lay down procedures to be followed by hospitals, police and other authorities in such situations. A bystander who takes a victim to the hospital will be allowed to leave immediately, after giving his name and address. No questions will be asked and there will not be any civil or criminal liability. A bystander who willingly states that he was a witness to the accident can be examined only on a single occasion for the purposes of a police investigation or trial. There is also a provision for suitably rewarding the good samaritan. State governments have to develop standard operating procedures to ensure that a bystander is not harassed in any way. There have been many cases where people who take victims to hospitals are detained, made to pay and have to face legal and other problems later. The guidelines will hopefully put an end to such situations.

Road accidents are steadily increasing in numbers. There are not enough numbers of roadside trauma centres and mobile relief vehicles to reach immediate medical aid to injured people. India has the highest number of road accident deaths in the world. It is pointed out that at least 50% of the fatalities can be averted if the victim gets medical attention immediately after the accident. The importance of the new guidelines is evident from this. The court had some time ago also issued orders against harassment of doctors who attend to injured persons brought to them by witnesses to accidents. Though the guidelines have legal backing from the Supreme Court directive, it is also necessary to give legislative support to them.

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