Good Samaritan Bill: Help accident victims sans fear

A new law ensures that Good Samaritans will not be harassed by the police. Karnataka is the first state in the country to introduce such a rule

Mangled remains of the Santro cas which collied with BMTC bus on Doddanekundi main road near ISRO on Old Airport road of HAL police limits in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Four people were died in an accident and one injured.

Karnataka became the first state in the country to have a law which seeks to protect those who come forward to help road accident victims.

With President Ram Nath Kovind giving his assent to the Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulations during Emergency Situations) Bill, 2016, doctors and activists hope that people will not hesitate to help victims.

Says Dr Firozahmad H Torgal, consultant and head of the department of emergency medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, “I have seen a lot of cases where victims lost their lives because they were not given timely help. People are not willing to come forward and help accident victims for many reasons, primary among them being a fear of investigations and harassment at the hands of police and not knowing what to do.”

Dr Firozahmad, who has trained 2700 traffic policemen at Traffic Training Institute in Hegde Nagar and has also taken workshops for MNC employees, feels that spreading awareness about the new law is imperative.

“We have to make the public understand that they are not liable for an act of helping somebody, even if anything goes wrong.”

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“Two years ago I and two of my friends helped a motorist who slipped from his bike near the Hebbal Flyover and suffered a somewhat serious injury. We had to run from pillar to post to sort up the legal procedures and also had to pay a bit in bribes.”

In a developing country like India, bystander care is essential to enhance the chances of survival of the victim in the ‘Golden Hour’. The Law Commission of India in its 201st report noted that over 50 percent of road accident deaths can be averted with timely medical care within the first one hour.

Ankit S, employed in the food and beverages industry, feels that the hesitation to help stems from a combination of apathy and fear.

“Recently, while riding on the service road on Outer Ring Road, I saw a motorist slip and fall in front of me. I stopped to help him but the other vehicles just whizzed past. I guess they didn’t want to be held up or waste their precious time helping someone in need,” he remarks sarcastically.

What does the bill say?

The Good Samaritan can leave immediately after admitting the victim to a hospital. All government and private hospitals are bound to give first aid to accident victims. Good Samaritans will not have to make repeated attendances in courts and police stations. In case of mandatory attendance at courts and police stations, a Good Samaritan Fund will be created which will take care of all expenses. Financial rewards for people who help victims.

Terms to know

Good Samaritan is “A person who, in good faith, without expectation of reward and without any duty of care or special relationship, voluntarily comes forward to administer emergency care to an injured person.”

‘Golden Hour’ is the first hour after injury.

Study finds people are scared to help

In 2013, the SaveLIFE Foundation conducted the first of its kind nation-wide survey on ‘Impediments to Bystander Care in India’ which revealed that 3 out of 4 people hesitate to come forward and help injured victims. Most of these people attribute it to legal hassles and police harassment or the belief that hospitals demand registration fees from Good Samaritans.

Personal tragedy led to his fight for change

After his cousin died in a road crash in 2008, Piyush Tewari founded The SaveLIFE Foundation with the aim of improving road safety emergency care across India.

The Foundation filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 2012 which, in 2016, gave ‘force of law’ to the guidelines and standard operating procedures issued by the Centre for protection of Good Samaritans from harassment. The Karnataka Government introduced the ‘Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill’ in 2016 in the Assembly.

Piyush says, “The President’s assent to the bill has paved the way for its enactment. This is a huge milestone and will create an enabling atmosphere where bystanders feel protected by law and come forward to help road crash victims. We hope that other states will follow Karnataka’s lead.”

High road fatalities

Karnataka is one of the top 5 states in terms of numbers of road crash deaths in India. The state saw over 11,000 people being killed in accidents in 2016 alone. Bengaluru alone has seen more than 3,000 accidents in the first eight months of this year.

What to do in an accident

Knowledge of CPR techniques is a must for every citizen now. Perform CPR on the victim. Control the bleeding, if there is any. Call for help immediately. Wait till the ambulance arrives and don’t try to shift the patient yourself. Don’t try to bring him/her to the hospital in private vehicles; that’s the worst thing to do. In cervical injuries, this can cause the patient to become quadriplegic. Wait for the ambulance, the trained personnel will know how to shift the patient properly.

If the patient collapses in between, continue CPR till the ambulance arrives. 

- Dr Firozahmad H Torgal, Consultant and head of the department of emergency medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital

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Good Samaritan Bill: Help accident victims sans fear

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