Despite law, Good Samaritans afraid

Despite law, Good Samaritans afraid

Hospitals must display a Good Samaritan charter to reassure those who help road accident victims. They are ignoring the mandate.

Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital in Bengaluru: no board inside.

A nationwide survey reveals that even two years after the Good Samaritan Law was passed, 62 per cent of respondents are hesitant to help accident victims for fear of police harassment and legal hassles.

The SaveLIFE Foundation survey, titled ‘Impediments to bystander care in India’, is aimed at encouraging eyewitnesses to help road-crash victims during the ‘golden hour’ without fear of police and legal harassment.

A Metrolife reporter visited several hospitals in Bengaluru to see if the Good Samaritan Charter was put up, as mandated in a Supreme Court judgement.

Prominent private hospitals like Fortis, Mallya, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital (Whitefield), Queen’s, Apollo and St Philomena’s have not displayed the charter anywhere.

The government-run Bowring Hospital was no different. When Metrolife asked at the reception of some hospitals about the Good Samaritan charter, they had not even heard of it. Hospitals we called up were not aware of the charter either.

Doctors call for better awareness among people, but is the medical fraternity doing its bit?

“The educated crowd in Bengaluru needs to be made aware about this law,” says Dr Bevin D’Silva, head and senior consultant, dept of emergency medicine at a private hospital. “People do have apprehensions about helping road accident victims, even though Bengaluru has a socially aware crowd.”

Hospitals like Sakra and BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals have instituted Good Samaritan Awards to acknowledge those who help victims in case of emergency, and have claimed to have displayed the charter too. 

Who is a Good Samaritan?

“A Good Samaritan is a person who, in good faith, without expectation of payment or reward and without any duty of care or special relationship, voluntarily comes forward to administer immediate assistance or emergency care to a person injured in an accident, or crash, or emergency medical condition, or emergency situation.”

Why they are important

- In the past decade, 13 lakh people have been killed in road crashes in India.

- In 2017 alone, 1.47 lakh were killed and close to 5 lakh were seriously injured.

- The role of bystanders is crucial in saving the lives of victims in road crashes. The Law Commission of India says 50% of those killed in road crashes could have been saved if basic life support was provided during the ‘golden hour’.

- Bystanders fear police harassment, detention at hospitals and prolonged legal formalities. This makes them reluctant to help a victim on the road.

Six in 10 cops unaware of law

They still insist on taking personal details of anyone who helps victims

Metrolife spoke to Piyush Tewari, CEO of SaveLIFE Foundation, to find out why people still walk away when they see someone desperately in need of help.

What according to you were the most startling findings?

Nationally, 84 per cent are still not aware of the Good Samaritan Law, even two years after the Supreme Court passed the judgment in the SaveLIFE Foundation vs Union of India case. The number is even more staggering in the case of Bengaluru, where only eight per cent are aware of their rights. Also, in clear violation of the Supreme Court judgment, none of the hospitals surveyed had displayed the Good Samaritan charter at their entrance — nationally as well as specifically in Bengaluru. About 60 per cent of police officials surveyed in Bengaluru admitted they still take personal details of Good Samaritans (against the new law). These figures emphasise the fact that the implementation of the directions given by the Supreme Court has been extremely low.

What must be done to make more people aware of the need for intervention during the golden hour?

Karnataka has already enacted the Good Samaritan Law. What we need is a speedy formalisation of rules. About 650 people lost their lives in 2,000 road crashes in Bengaluru in 2017. Effective implementation, with proper grievance redressal, will help in ensuring lives are saved.

What it says

There is no standardised format for a Good Samaritan charter. However, the SaveLIFE Foundation has come up with one with all information that should be displayed.