I was absolutely horrified the other week to see a news report from India about a fatal scooter accident. Instead of helping, bystanders took selfies in front of the dying victims. Nobody even assisted them for half an hour.
That sort of behaviour is utterly repugnant. In New Zealand, where I am, it is also illegal – motorists are obliged, by law, to help. But, in any case, isn’t that the right, normal and proper thing to do?
I still recall the time – over 20 years ago – when my wife and I were driving south towards Dannevirke, a southern Hawke’s Bay town. A car driving north failed to take a corner, spun out, and side-slammed into a tree about 200 metres in front of us. We were first on the scene, maybe thirty seconds later. This was basically pre-cellphone days – they were about, but nobody really had them. We didn’t. So while my wife immediately provided aid to the sole occupant of the car, I flagged down vehicles. Within one minute there were a dozen willing helpers to hand, including a doctor, all pitching in. And somebody had a cellphone.
Sadly, it turned out an ambulance wasn’t needed; the poor woman in the car never regained consciousness – the doctor declared her dead within five minutes.
As you can imagine we were quite shaken and ended up, about an hour later, in a café in Dannevirke trying to settle down for the rest of our drive to Wellington.
That particular corner was apparently notorious for accidents, although it wasn’t rebuilt to eliminate the trap until just last year.
The point is that, if somebody needs help, you don’t hesitate. And there are ways of making that effective, starting with providing immediate aid (for example, to staunch bleeding, provide CPR or similar); then when they’re out of instant danger, obtaining further assistance; then helping the victims again while help arrives – if you’re on your own, in that order.
It worries me that any human, anywhere, can be so divorced from the concept of helping others – so callous about the well-being of those around them – that they think instead of their own vanity, such as taking selfies in front of dying accident victims. Or maybe they will rob the victims – there was a case of this in New Zealand, not long ago. We cannot blame cultures or societies: it does not seem to matter where in the world this sort of conduct occurs.
There’s another issue, too, which seems to deter people from helping. After that accident that my wife and I witnessed twenty-odd years ago the police, in attendance, were curious to know what my car had been doing. I explained the tragedy had unfolded well ahead of us – we’d simply been first on the scene; and it turned out there was another witness who’d seen it happen from the other direction. The point being that by diving in to help, we came under suspicion of being somehow involved – and I guess it’s reasonable procedure for the police to check everything. But it also highlights the issue that some people are deterred from helping because they don’t want to be falsely criminalised as part of whatever is going on.
I’ve seen reports of similar issues elsewhere: in China, for example, nobody went to help a toddler that had wandered into traffic and been hit by a van. Why? Apparently if somebody did, they might be legally liable, or caught up in it some other way. That is a systemic issue. But it is also a human one. And really – if somebody needs help, they should be given it. We should not hesitate.
I sometimes despair about where the world is going, morally. Thoughts?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018