The latest programme in the BBC radio series ‘Law in Action’ can be heard here till the next programme on Friday June 11th) has a section on whether Britain should have what is called a Good Samaritan law or good citizen law.
It’s difficult to draft such a law. One of the questions is ‘Who is the passer-by?’ The good Samaritan story has been called on before, in the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson in the early 1930s, extending the law of tort, when Lord Atkin (‘the Denning of his day’ passes through my mind) asked, ‘Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’
Here’s the case, also known as the snail in the ginger beer case.
Here’s a new approach to the good Samaritan parable, told in answer to a lawyer’s question, of course. You can watch a film of the parable, but it seems to have been transplanted to the American mid-west, and I don’t recommend it. Here’s the text from the King James Bible, Luke 10:25-10:37.
It looks to me as if Good Samaritan statutes cover more than this in the U.S.A. They may penalize those who don’t give assistance, but they may give immunity to those who do (because it is so risky for a doctor to stop to help someone for fear of medical negligence claims).