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Forum: Careful thought must be put into any good Samaritan law

Forum: Careful thought must be put into any good Samaritan law

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 08 Oct 2020

Anyone can possibly be tempted to use any law to mete out justice. Do we really want to bring the toxic brand of citizen vigilantism seen online into our physical world too?

I read with interest Mr Amos Wu Pom Hin's letter about having a law for good Samaritans (Need for comprehensive law to protect good Samaritans, Oct 6).

Many things can go wrong in a confrontational situation. And there are always at least two sides to a story. While in the eyes of a bystander a crime may have been committed, it may not always be the case.

Good Samaritans, who are on the sidelines, must always remind themselves that they can help only by restraining any suspected offender until police officers arrive. Less is definitely more in such situations.

While it is common to resort to violence in order to restrain a suspect, who may be trying to escape, it is still not right to hurt anyone in any situation. All injuries caused, even by trained professionals, should be compensated. The stories of police violence around the world are disappointing and scary.

Encouraging help from the public can be a double-edged sword.

Anyone can possibly be tempted to use any law to mete out justice. Do we really want to bring the toxic brand of citizen vigilantism seen online into our physical world too?

A lot of controversy surrounds vigilantism. Much care must be taken to enact laws to protect good Samaritans.

All laws should be regularly reviewed and outdated ones removed. Sometimes, no law can be better to bring out the best in people.

Terence Ho Wai Loong


Key considerations in good Samaritan doctrine

It is gratifying to note that Mr Amos Wu Pom Hin has argued for a good Samaritan law (Need for comprehensive law to protect good Samaritans, Oct 6). Generally speaking, there is legally no duty to rescue another person who is placed in a dangerous situation.

The three key elements that support a successful invocation of the good Samaritan doctrine are: a) the care rendered was performed as a result of the emergency, b) the initial emergency or injury was not caused by the person invoking the defence and c) the emergency care was not given in a grossly negligent or reckless manner.

A good Samaritan is a person who voluntarily renders aid in an emergency to an injured person and owes the stranger a duty of being reasonably careful.

Negligence would exist where it could be shown that the good Samaritan knew or should have known that his intervention would injure the person he was trying to help.

The idea of a good Samaritan law is that in some cases, people may think twice about assisting others if faced with the potential threat of a lawsuit.

Some countries have good Samaritan laws while others have a "duty to rescue" requirement, which requires a person near a harmful situation to step in and help or call the proper authorities.

Duty to rescue laws can be found in Germany, Israel and in some states of the United States.

In this case, a rescuer is favoured in the eyes of the law. Judges will make every effort to protect him so long as he is not grossly negligent.

Heng Cho Choon

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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