A new provision has been adopted in China to exempt Good Samaritans from legal liabilities when offering emergency assistance, according to an announcement by China’s national legislature at its closing meeting on March 15.
The General Provisions of the Civil Law, which was passed by the fifth session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), stipulate that Good Samaritans will be indemnified from legal liabilities even if injuries are inadvertently inflicted on a person helped during an emergency.
Such legal immunity has been applauded by some scholars and NPC members, with many noting that the law will encourage people to do what is right without worrying about the consequences. Many Chinese people have been calling for a national Good Samaritan law in recent years, after several incidents were publicized of bystanders opting not to render assistance due to the threat of legal action.
In 2011, Wang Yue, a 2-year-old girl, was run over by two vehicles and then ignored by passersby until she died from her injuries. In an online survey conducted by China Youth Daily, over 76 percent of the 4,065 respondents said they understood why the passersby didn’t offer help to the dying toddler. Seventy-one percent thought that passersby were afraid of getting into trouble due to the lack of legal protection.
Shen Chen, a Beijing-based lawyer and an expert in civil law, told People’s Daily Online that Good Samaritans should be fully protected, as these protections are an essential tool in upholding China’s traditional values.
“It’s good to have a law that protects Good Samaritans, but it would be better to set up a fund to compensate people who were injured while being helped, as not all helpers are equipped with professional rescue knowledge,” said Shen.
But others have expressed concern over the law, noting that it may bring up issues including gross negligence and intentional misconduct.
“Though first aid provided without the expectation of reward should be encouraged, it is not wise to exempt helpers from all legal liabilities, as some people may abuse the law to harm the others. Certain circumstances and preconditions should also be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not a Good Samaritan should be punished,” one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.