In 2013, there were more than 1.37 lakh road related fatalities. According to the Law Commission Report (201st) on emergency medical care to accident victims, more than half of accident and other fatalities could have been averted if timely help was received by the victim. In the last decade alone, more than 1.2 million people have lost their lives and millions more permanently disabled in road related mishaps. Most of the deaths could have been avoided if the medical help was received at the right time.
The delay is due to multitude of reasons: India’s hugely overburdened emergency response system, poor road and hospital infrastructure and also because bystanders, onlookers hesitate to help the effected.
According to recently conducted survey1, 3 out of 4 people hesitate to help the injured. The survey ruled out apathy as a reason for not offering help and concluded that major deterrent is fear of being trapped in legal and procedures hassles along with fear of harassment from police.
For protecting bystanders, Save LIFE Foundation filed a petition in 2012 and during its hearing Supreme Court instructed the Government of India to pass guidelines, which would encourage bystanders to help accident victims, until appropriate legislation is passed by the Union Legislature.
The guidelines were finally published by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways on 12th May 2015. You can read the complete guidelines here. We’ve summarized the main points below:
- Good Samaritan* who takes an injured person to the hospital can leave immediately, and cannot be forced to stay unless he/she is an eyewitness in which only their address can be noted.
- Good Samaritan should be suitably awarded to encourage other people to help the needy.
- Good Samaritan will not be held liable for any criminal or civil liability
- Good Samaritan who calls emergency services or police shall not be forced to reveal any of his personal details, including name, either on phone or in person
- Disclosure of personal information, name and contact details, of Good Samaritan shall be made completely voluntary or optional, including in the Medico Legal Case ( MLC ) forms provided by the Hospital.
- Disciplinary or Departmental action should be initiated by concerned government against the public officials who intimidate or force Good Samaritan to reveal his/her personal details.
- Good Samaritan, who has voluntary stated that he/she is an eyewitness to the accident and is required to be questioned for the purpose of a trial or police investigation, should only be examined once. Video conferencing may be extensively used for examination of the informant.
- Good Samaritans, unless a family member, shall not be detained or demanded payment for registration and admission by any private or public hospital.
*Applies to bystander, onlooker, eyewitness or Good Samaritan.
Piyush Tiwari, Founder of Save life foundation, who had moved the petition in the Supreme Court, welcomed the notification “Although this is an interim measure, these guidelines will help create a supportive environment for bystanders to come forward and help the injured without fear of intimidation or harassment by the police and hospitals. The onus is now on the state governments to ensure implementation of these guidelines”
As rightly quoted by Mr Piyush Tiwari, this is just a first step and its proper implementation is very important, but these guidelines will help the Good Samaritans become aware of their rights. It will create a supportive environment for bystanders/eyewitness to help the accident victims without any harassment for performing a good deed.
Jesus in his parable stated that the one who helps shall be your neighbour and should be loved and respected. The phrase “Good Samaritan” derives from this parable. With proper implementation of these guidelines Good Samaritans in our country can be respected and awarded for savings lives, rather than being intimidated or harassed.