A Good Samaritan Law is Never a Good Idea
Less than one year ago, the largest television audience since the series finale of M*A
*S*H tuned in to watch the last episode of Seinfeld As the nation watched, Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer said farewell with the arrest, trial, and conviction of violating a Good Samaritan law. While this made for a hilarious television show, this law itself seems to both contradict its essence as well as violate the right to freedom of choice of a citizen. The Good Samaritan law, which requires a bystander to provide aid to those who are in harm’s way if there is no apparent immediate danger to the bystander, encroaches upon the rights of a citizen. This law is an inexcusable violation of American civil liberties and should be stricken from the records, leaving only people’s moral compasses as their guide.
The morality of this law is relatively simple: help those in trouble. Generally society
seems to consider it a moral obligation to prevent the injury of another person, sometimes even at risk to one’s self. People who do not help others in need are frequently bad examples for the rest of the world. For example, in Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge is infamous for his selfishness and disregard for the well-being of others such as Bob Cratchett and his family (barely paying him and not allowing him more than a day for Christmas). Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, is damned for the same type of crimes. The only path to redemption for Ebeneezer is through helping others who are in need: giving food to the Cratchetts and caring for a sickly Tiny Tim.
While Scrooge had a moral reason to help others, there was no Constitutional burden to
do so. If the federal government were to pass such a law, as several state governments have, it would violate the right to liberty since a person has the right to do whatever he or she wishes so long as that action does not infringe upon the rights of others. By requiring a person to act as opposed to merely limiting the actions, the law itself violates freedom of choice. Since the person himself is not intruding upon anyone’s rights, it is that person’s prerogative to not act, no matter how morally objectionable this act may be.
In fact, the extreme case of someone not providing aid has indeed occurred. In Septem-
ber in Las Vegas, a nineteen-year-old raped and murdered a seven-year-old girl in a casino bathroom while a friend stayed outside, knowing the other man was raping her. Since there is no Good Samaritan law in Nevada, the friend is now attending college a free man. Most people probably wonder how someone could hear a little girl’s screams and turn instead to the laughter and lights of the casino. They ask, if he could not bring himself to step in, how can he sleep at night now, knowing he caused the pain and death of an innocent child? He did not touch her or aid the rapist in any way. According to the letter of the law he...