Do We Have a Duty to Assist?

Do we have a duty to assist? Social Psychology Author: David Myers & Jean Twenge Publisher: McGraw-Hill Edition: 13This discussion is based on Chapter 12: Helping.  There are two questions, very similar.  You may comment on one or both.1)  Good Samaritan Laws, including the one in Texas, protect passers-by from civil and criminal prosecution when rendering aid in an emergency situation. Support for that protection is fairly universal. However, at least ten states, including Vermont, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington have gone further. In those states, if you are aware of an emergency and DO NOT, at least, “summon assistance,” i.e., call 911, you are guilty of a violation or a crime. Punishments range from a $100 fine to jail time. These duty-to-rescue or duty-to-assist laws were passed after it was discovered that groups of people had stood and stared at victims in need of help, but did nothing . . . not even call for an ambulance. Some of these people had come back for a second look, this time bringing their friends!

In the summer of 2018, Florida officials ruled they could not charge a group of people who watched, and jeered, as a man drowned.  Click here for more details. (Links to an external site.)This discussion does NOT involve standard Good Samaritan Laws, but involves the added provision that failure to call 911 or render aid (if able and without endangering yourself) is a punishable offense. Does that go “too far” or would that result in more lives saved? As an example, here is a summary of Minnesota’s law:Duty to assist. A person at the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is exposed to or has suffered grave physical harm shall, to the extent that the person can do so without danger or peril to self or others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person. Reasonable assistance may include obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel. A person who violates this subdivision is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.2)  What about those who observe online crimes, such as cyber-bullying (Links to an external site.) or revenge porn (Links to an external site.)?  What about the people who watched streamed suicides, (Links to an external site.) and didn’t make an effort to stop the person or the white nationalist who live-streamed his murders of Muslims (Links to an external site.) in New Zealand?  [Click the highlighted links to read more about those topics.]Should there be laws to mandate helping the victim by notifying authorities? While simply expressing your own opinion is great, relate what you say to the factors that influence helping, mentioned in Chapter 12 and my chapter notes.

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