Monday, December 03, 2007

Note to Samaritans: the rules are changing

Last night, the police (finally) came around to get a statement from my son regarding Tuesday's incident. At the end of the interview, the policeman advised my son to refrain from offering or giving help to people in the street - "no good deed goes unpunished."

Ugh. When I think how hard we have worked to teach our children to be neighbourly!

When I was in my teens, my mother encountered a man staggering down the high street of the city with a knife protruding from his back, bleeding copiously. He was pleading for help from passersby, but people were giving him a wide berth. My mother drove him to the hospital.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I were awakened by loud banging on the door of our flat. At the door stood a bleeding man who said he had been stabbed. My husband drove him to the hospital.

If my children take to heart the advice they are now being given, such people will just bleed to death. What worries me most is the thought: what if it isn't one of my children who encounters such a person? What if the person is one of my children?

When I contrast the willingness of my online communities to help one another academically, emotionally, spiritually, informationally, with this sad state of affairs in respect of physical or material help within our physical communities... well, it breaks my heart.


Harold Jarche said...

In Canada, most provinces have Good Samaritan laws, to protect people who act in good faith to help others. In Quebec, which has a different civil law system, people are obligated by law to help anyone in distress.

Anonymous said...

The Good Samaritan law sounds like a good one. Many times I have seen doctors refuse to treat people because of the fear of reprisals. I was once peripheral to a situation where a 17 year old girl wound up giving birth alone in an office because neither of the two doctors present was prepared to do anything, nor would they let me even go and sit with her.

With regard to your second point, I'm curious as to how this can be policed. The guy who knocked on our door would obviously have been able to identify us by means of our address but, had he died, there would have been no-one who could have pointed the finger.

As for the guy my Mom helped - against whom could he have taken action in a street full of strangers?

My third point is that the issue at play in my son's situation has more to do with culture than law. He was helping someone who asked for assistance, which turned out to be a set-up, and he was mugged for his trouble.

I'm not convinced that throwing laws at a situation is going to change anything. Laws like this seem to me to be a reaction against a changing culture. This is a heart-level, societal thing.