This paper will discuss good samaritan laws in the United States. The first part of the paper will discuss the moral aspects of good samaritan laws. The second part of the paper will examine some of the existing provisions in the United States, including both restrictions on liability for actions which assisted others and duties to assist others.
Good samaritan laws derived their names from the biblical tale of the traveling Samaritan who aided an injured Israelite after others refused to do so. In the United States, these laws have been enacted to address the issue of rendering emergency aid to persons who are sick or injured or who are in imminent physical danger. There are two types of good samaritan laws. The first type protects those who render emergency aid from being held liable for further injuries which may have resulted from the aid given. The second type of law imposes a duty upon individuals to render aid when they come upon another person who requires such aid.
The first type of law, restricting liability for aid rendered, is more common in Anglo-American common law countries. The second type of good samaritan law, imposing a duty to aid, has been fairly common throughout Continental European countries for some time. The reason for this is that civil law countries on the continent have never had legal doctrines which impose liability on emergency-care providers for negligent care. Common law countries, on the other hand, have long imposed a duty of reasonable care on such care providers (Brodsky, 1984, p. 1213; Feinberg, 1984, p. 127; Frey, 1994, p. 160).
Moral Aspects of Good Samaritan Legislation
The fact that legislatures in the United States have found it necessary to enact laws which either protect emergency care-providers or impose duties to provide aid in the first place has triggered considerable moral debate. Some have suggested that the need for such legislation is the result of Anglo-Am...