Good Samaritan law isn’t that bad an idea

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (U-WIRE) — Christopher Sercye, 15, was playing basketball in his middle-class neighborhood Saturday when a gang fight erupted in gunfire. Sercye, an innocent bystander, was shot by three teenage gang members.
Fortunately for Sercye, all of this occurred next to Ravenswood Hospital in Chicago.
At least, one would think, if you’re shot it would be fortunate to be next to a hospital.
Unfortunately for Sercye, the Ravenswood Hospital emergency room workers refused to treat him as he lay bleeding to death in the alley outside the hospital, saying hospital policy forbids them from going outside.
According to The Associated Press, friends, neighbors and police officers pleaded with the ER personnel to come out and treat him. Others called for an ambulance, but none had arrived by the time a frustrated police officer took him inside 30 minutes after the shooting.
Sercye died about an hour later.
There is something wrong with the health-care industry when a hospital can make policy like this, which seems to be against the very nature of their purpose in society.
The Good Samaritan Law was recently lampooned on the final episode of “Seinfeld” as Jerry and friends were sent to prison for one year.
There is, however, a good, practical reason for such laws.
Good Samaritan laws first came to mainstream attention after French photographers were charged in France with not coming to Princess Diana’s aid after her fatal car crash. Most European countries have Good Samaritan laws which require a person to summon aid or help someone in an emergency when it is reasonable to do so.
Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin are the only American states that have Good Samaritan laws.
According to legal experts contacted by The Associated Press, even when no duty is spelled out in state law people may have common-law obligations to help in emergencies.
There is no group more qualified to help in an emergency such as a shooting than those in a hospital. To rely entirely on others to bring the injured to them is ridiculous when the injured are dying right outside their building.
Policies need to be changed, laws need to be written and Ravenswood Hospital should be prosecuted and made an example of so this never happens again.

This staff editorial appeared in Wednesday’s University of Utah Daily Utah Chronicle.