Shanghai’s long-awaited Good Samaritan law went into effect yesterday, providing a bit of much-needed legal protection to residents who want to help a stranger in need, but also want to avoid getting sued.
The legislation was drafted last September and was passed by the city’s congress in July. It states that when encountering an emergency situation, citizens without first aid experience should first call emergency services (120) and carry out first aid procedures only under the guidance of emergency operators. If something should go wrong, the new law prevents these first aid providers from legal liability even if they ended up harming those that they were trying to help.
It’s the latest regulation in a series of efforts made by the Chinese government to encourage citizens to provide assistance in emergencies. Because of the threat of being sued, China suffers from a severe lack of public trust with most bystanders preferring to ignore a stranger in need rather than lend a hand. The 2016 World Giving Index found that only 24% of Chinese respondents said they had helped a stranger in the past month, the lowest percentage in the world.
Here’s some additional survey info, via Shanghai Daily:
In an online survey conducted by China Central Television in 2014, only 11.3 percent of those interviewed without medical emergency knowledge said they would come to the rescue of people in an emergency. Most said they would just call 120 and 14.4 percent said they would just leave or stand by and watch.
Even among those with some medical knowledge, only 36.8 percent said they would carry out first aid without hesitation, while 58.2 percent said they would worry about possible trouble and 5 percent said they would definitely not touch a victim in need.
Asked why they would be reluctant to help, 58 percent said they were afraid of legal ramifications. And 36 percent feared they would be accused of being troublemakers.
But 93.9 percent said they would help without hesitation if they were guaranteed of protection from legal problems.
Discussion over the lack of Good Samaritans in China goes back to an infamous case from 2011, when a toddler named Yueyue was run over by two vehicles and left clinging to life in a Foshan alleyway, overlooked by at least 18 passersby until finally one female trash collector saw her and called for help.
Since then, similar tragic incidents have become a fairly regular occurrence in China. Last year, an elderly man in Zhejiang province fell down in the street and was ignored by a handful of people and vehicles for eight minutes until he was eventually run over. Just this week, a video went viral on Chinese social media showing a toddler riding his toy car into heavy traffic with no motorists stopping to help. Often times, bystanders choose to snap photos with their smartphones before providing help.
It remains to be seen if this new regulation will do anything to change these types of prevailing attitudes. As Sixth Tone pointed out in August, the law only provides legal protection to citizens if they call emergency services first and follow instructions, causing many to worry that passersby simply won’t bother to take the risk.
“Shanghai’s law is likely to prevent many good Samaritans who arrive immediately but lack medical training from administering treatment due to concerns about legal responsibility,” Zhu Wei, an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law, told Sixth Tone.
But to the regulation’s credit, it also aims to encourage more people to actually learn how to provide critical first aid through government-sponsored training programs. At the same time, Shanghai authorities have also installed a total of 575 automatic defibrillators in public places across the city to aid first responders.