How to be a Good Samaritan
By Yuan Cheng
The Good Samaritan Law protects civilian responders under certain conditions.
Before treating someone, one should always obtain some form of consent.
In our day to day life, we don’t constantly deal with emergency scenarios such as having to save someone with a fatal injury or resuscitating an unconscious friend. Thus we don’t often think about the legal logistics that go into saving a life.
While helping someone, it is possible for the emergency responder to be accidentally incriminated. Knowing the Good Samaritan Law and other rules as such can be crucial in these dire moments, so we can save others but also protect ourselves.
When dealing with an emergency situation, always call 911 before you do anything else.
The Good Samaritan Law
In situations in which the victim requires immediate assistance and help is unavailable, you may step in under the condition that you follow the Good Samaritan Law. The law varies from state to state, so if you are hesitant, it is highly suggested that you search up the specifics of your state’s execution. The key components of the law are the same, however, and they protect you from legal repercussions as long as you keep them in mind:
If you are able to obtain consent from a conscious victim, do so.
State who you are, your qualifications (for example, being certified in CPR), and what you plan to do to help. Ask them if you have permission to and do not act unless they give you explicit verbal consent. If the victim is a child, ask for their parents’ consent.
Failure to obtain consent can result in what you do being considered “assault” or “battery,” even if it helps the victim.
2. You are not exempt from legal repercussions if you are the person responsible for the injury (for example, you successfully perform CPR on someone you hit with a car: you will still need to handle medical fees and possibly go to court).
3. The care you provide should be reasonable for that specific situation. If what you are doing is reckless and not what a normal person would do in responding to the same scenario, then you are not protected.
Further Information on Consent
As mentioned above, consent is extremely important when it comes to the application of treatment. But what happens if the victim is unconscious and unable to give consent? In that case, consent is implied, but please double-check that the victim is indeed unresponsive before beginning treatment.
You can use the acronym AVPU to help check a person’s level of consciousness:
A stands for Alert: Is the victim fully awake and do they open their eyes? Do they respond to my voice and can they use all parts of their body? If so, they are alert.
V stands for Verbal: do they open their eyes or verbally/physically react to talking? Can they follow instructions?
P stands for Pain: does the victim respond to pain stimuli such as a pinch on the ears or having their fingernail bed pressed? Do they locate the pain and try to distance themselves from it consciously?
U stands for Unresponsive: does the victim respond in any way to their pain or to my voice? If not, they are most likely unresponsive.
An Extension of the Good Samaritan Law
If illicit substances are involved in an incident, those who call 911 in time and candidly report the situation can receive certain immunities. They may have their sentence reduced or be cleared of substance-related charges.
Although saving others is often not a legal duty but a moral one, being educated on its legal implications definitely encourages more people to aid others safely and confidently.