Сase: A person driving home late one evening on a dark, deserted road comes across a single-vehicle accident. Getting out of the car and viewing the damaged vehicle, it is clear that the lone occupant, the driver, is hurt and unconscious. Wishing to help the injured person, the “Good Samaritan” pulls the driver out of the car, lays him on the ground, and calls 911 on his cell phone. Emergency personnel soon arrive and take the injured driver to the hospital. The Good Samaritan later learns that as a result of his moving the driver, the driver suffered significant, permanent injury to his back.
This situation is an example of a first aid to the person, which falls under the code of laws of the United States about Good Samaritan, which governs the right to primary care and the legal status of the person who rendered such care. It is necessary to point that in the USA, as a rule, only EMS (Medical Emergency Service) provides necessary help, as strangers tend not to touch the victim and avoid providing help to victims, because of fear of further legal actions and claims. At first glance it seems absurd: a person saves life of another and can be convicted for it. However, in reality there are many ways to hurt people even acting of the good intentions, and this case example proves it. The intentions of the Good Samaritan, of course, were the most good, but the result of his actions was sad. Of course, he could not know that it was better not to touch the victim in an accident before the arrival of the doctors, and he had just to call an ambulance.
In this case the Good Samaritan had good intentions, he was acting in order to bring about good consequences, as from the point of virtue ethics he must “Act as a virtuous person would act in this situation.” From the point of formalism, the actions of Good Samaritan are considered to be inherently good, even if they have bad consequences, but they can be defined as good. (Bentham, 1996)
But from the point of utilitarianism, “what is good is determined by the consequences of the action”, so if an action benefits the greater amount, than it is good because it outweighs the small amount of harm that the action has caused (Pollock, 2004). That is why actions of the Good Samaritan can be judged by their consequences only, but not for good intentions.
So on the one hand an inexperienced person can do just what is prohibited to do in certain situation, but on the other hand, it is timely assistance can sometimes save a human life. Attempts to resolve this problem gave rise to the “Good Samaritan Law” in the U.S. states. It is called to prevent a rescuer, who has voluntarily helped a victim, from being sued for ‘wrongdoing’, as person must not be afraid to help a stranger in need because of legal liability and claims, if he makes some mistake in treatment. It is important that from the moment when a man began to help the victim of an accident, he is up to certain limits will assume responsibility for him and the whole situation.
Bentham, J. (1996). An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. London: T. Payne.
Pollock, J. (2004). Ethics in Crime and Justice, 4e. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.