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Always be ready to help, but remember to keep safe

 Always be ready to help, but remember to keep safe (Photo: iStock)

Almost everybody is aware of the phrase ‘Good Samaritan’ and what it implies. It is the act of coming to the rescue of those in some danger, out of goodwill and without the intention of reward or compensation.

But the non-religious may be unaware that the phrase is attributed to Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan detailed in the Bible. Jesus narrated the selfless rescue by a traveller from Samaria, in aid of a rival stranger who had been beaten, robbed and left for dead.

Kenyan cities and towns aren’t the safest. The risk of harm lurks in every corner, day and night. Never-do-gooders are on the prowl, often striking without warning. There are countless traffic mishaps, amplified by reckless ignorance of traffic rules, lack of civility and common sense, not to mention driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The risk of the average Kenyan being involved in a life-threatening ordeal is pretty high.

Can we rely on fellow citizens to come to our rescue? Some basic rules apply when anyone comes to the aid of a victim. First and foremost, you must ensure your safety. It’s no use turning yourself into an extra victim in misguided rescue attempts.

An obvious example is entering a building on fire to rescue others without fire-fighting equipment; you are likely to head back out much faster, or not at all! In road accidents, take precautions to avoid other motorists ramming onto the rescue scene. Mugging victims is another story, it’s difficult to tell who’s also in the act. It may be a lure to mug you as well.

You also need some basic knowledge of how to rescue victims. Organisations should incorporate first aid training as part of generic qualifications. It’s a worthwhile investment, limiting inappropriate responses that may cause further harm to victims and potential liabilities. Any actions beyond basic rescue must await the arrival of paramedics in appropriately equipped ambulances, and let’s all give ambulances the right of way, minor delays can be fatal.

The duty to rescue others is enshrined in law in many jurisdictions. Legal protection for giving reasonable assistance to those who are injured, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated is catered for. Such protection is intended to encourage a rescue culture and reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist. If a victim is incapacitated, prompt rescue efforts should be the default, questions later.

What about the right not to rescue? There is no formal statute that dictates legal penalties for those who fail to rescue. This does not necessarily obviate a moral duty to rescue, social and ethical arguments should always prevail in rational goodwill actions.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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