Wednesday July 23 2014

Support Good Samaritan’s law

By Editorial

Plans by the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) to lobby Parliament to enact a Good Samaritan’s law deserve support. A law that seeks to offer legal protection to utmost acts of good faith by people who give reasonable assistance on voluntary basis in an emergency to a stranger injured, ill, in peril, or incapacitated is well-intentioned. Any voluntary rescue of victims of tragedies for no other reason than kindness should not have one arrested or prosecuted. Good Samaritans are unique, unlike paid rescuers who are expected to do their jobs correctly and can be held answerable for their mistakes.

But for now, even the most helpful people still shy away from taking care of those in need because of fear of being held liable or sued for any blunder in the course of assistance. Also, it is not uncommon for rescuers to be arrested and charged in cases where victims of disasters get health complications, die or lose property.

As Interim URCS Secretary General Ken Odur Gabelle argues, the proposed provision seeks to avoid such circumstances and provide limited immunity from arrest or prosecution. This should also reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist persons in need for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury of wrongful death. This is why it is noble for URCS to push for legal immunity for such people who sometimes find themselves in trouble with the law after rescuing victims of tragedies. So it is crucial that MPs endorse the proposed private member’s Bill by URCS governing board chairman and Igara County MP Stephen Tashobya that seeks to protect people who rescue victims of tragedies against being unjustly prosecuted.

This move is good in many ways. Foremost, since no person is bound by law to offer first aid, this initiative encourages people to volunteer their time and increase chances of survival of persons involved in accidents and other disasters. Second, it encourages honest men and women to help people in distress instead of looking on for fear of arrest or blame. Third, the law should provide civil immunities for compassionate acts by persons ready to be each other’s brother and sister’s keeper in times of need.

So when MPs consider the proposed Good Samaritan’s law and exemptions from civil liability, they should factor in emergency assistance without fee or compensation in cases of chocking victims at food-service establishment such as restaurants. In this category are also those who offer emergency care for victims unable to respond or are unconscious.
A law to protect a person who voluntarily offers help to a stranger in times of trouble is essential. We should, therefore, support the Good Samaritan’s law.