Are You Legally Bound To Attempt A Rescue?
By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - When Yi Suk Han was pushed onto the New York subway tracks, there were many people standing by. One was a photographer from the New York Post, who began taking pictures, among them, one of the man, facing the train that would take his life, that became the cover of the Post with the headline: Doomed.
An uproar ensued: why didn’t the photographer grab for the man instead of his camera? The photographer later said that he was too far away to help. But could the photographer or others even nearer be held responsible if they could have helped the man avoid death?
In general in America, the law says you have no duty to rescue someone in trouble, and that’s true even if you wouldn’t be putting yourself in danger by helping. There are some exceptions to that rule. For example, if you are a firefighter, it’s your job to rescue. And if you’ve created the danger, you have duty to rescue. If you start to rescue someone, you can’t leave the person worse off than they would have been had you not started to rescue. And finally, a parent has a duty to protect his child.
But ultimately for the photographers and others in the subway station – and those of us who find ourselves with the ability to be heroic even if we’re not required, it’s the heart and not the law that dictates.