Due to India’s large population and probably its genetics, a large number of Indians – young adults, as well as the elderly – suffer from sudden cardiac arrests each year. Added to this, there are also a large number of road accidents annually, many of them causing death by sudden trauma and eventual heart attacks.
But the sad story is that bystanders often seem very reluctant to help in such emergencies. Sometimes this is because bystanders don’t know what to do to help, even if they want to. They feel untrained and ignorant of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) needed by these patients hovering between life and death.
At other times, bystanders fear that if they involve themselves in the emergencies, they will later be called to police stations and courts and given a tough time by the authorities since they were the “eye witnesses”. They also feel if their CPR methods are not up to the mark, they may themselves be termed negligent and liable for the patient’s eventual death.
Fortunately, in 2016, the Supreme Court of India enabled a law to protect Good Samaritans i.e., those who are ethical enough to help in an emergency. The Court believed Good Samaritans should not get penalized or harassed for their good intent to give timely assistance, however good or poor their attempts may be.
Let’s read more about this.
According to a National Study conducted by the SaveLIFE Foundation and TNS India, here are some eye-opening facts and figures about why people who’d like to help in emergencies don’t eventually do so:
The World Bank states that road accidents in India, which has a mere 1% of the world’s vehicles, accounts for about 10% of all crash-related deaths. Many of these deaths are traumas caused by accidents that then lead to cardiac arrests.
What’s worse, research suggests that almost 80% of the victims of road accidents do not receive any aid within the “Golden Hour” after the accident, when their hearts are still beating, despite other grievous bodily injuries. If medical assistance is provided to victims within this “Golden Hour”, it could prevent many deaths.
According to Safe India, the Law Commission of India believes that up to 50% of these victims die of preventable injuries and consequent traumatic heart failures that could have been saved if they had received care on time.
In such cases, clearly only bystanders can save the lives of the victim. But for fear of ignorance and various subsequent hassles, these bystanders are unwilling to help.
In 2012, SaveLIFE Foundation filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India, requesting the Hon’ble Court to safeguard those with Good Samaritan intentions in two ways:
The Supreme Court defined a Good Samaritan as follows:
“A Good Samaritan is a person who, in good faith, without expectation of payment or reward and without any duty of care or special relationship, voluntarily comes forward to administer immediate assistance or emergency care to a person injured in an accident, or crash, or emergency medical condition, or emergency situation.”
In an article in the Business World, titled “What The Supreme Court Ruling On Good Samaritans Means For India”, the author Piyush Tiwari states that:
In 2015, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) notified the Guidelines. In 2016, the Supreme Court of India provided the ‘force of law’ to the said Guidelines under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, and thus made the guidelines legally binding on all States and Union Territories in India.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, inserted a new section 134A, named “Protection of Good Samaritans” which provides that a Good Samaritan shall not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of the victim of an accident, where such injury or death resulted from the Good Samaritan’s negligence in acting or failing to act while rendering emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance.
The Central Government then, by rules, provided for the standard procedure for questioning or examination of Good Samaritans, disclosure of personal information of the Good Samaritans, and non-harassment of the Good Samaritans.
Unfortunately, even after the Supreme Court of India passed the Good Samaritan Law in 2016, there is very poor understanding and adherence to this law, among both lay people and even medical professionals.
According to the National Study conducted by the SaveLIFE Foundation and TNS India (cited earlier), here are some findings:
The study reveals that the implementation of the Good Samaritan Law is a huge challenge. Given the low levels of public awareness of this law, messaging must be centered around raising awareness about the law amongst citizens and key stakeholders.
Elsewhere in the world, various countries have adopted March 13 as World Good Samaritan Day.
However, according to Wikipedia, THOZHAN, an NGO based in Chennai, had adopted and celebrated March 30, 2020 as Good Samaritan Law Day in India. They started with a host of valuable educational activities and over 2500 participants.
Since it was first celebrated, the Good Samaritan Law Day in India is also finding better countrywide acceptance and resonance.
Do come forward to help accident victims or those in cardiac failure or emergency medical distress, if you are a bystander. It’s better still if you can get CPR-trained. The Good Samaritan Laws are here to protect you. Get aware of these laws, and help spread awareness about them. Here’s our encouragement for you: “Be a Zinda Dil. Learn CPR. Save Lives.”