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ARMCHAIR ARCHIVES – Why Good Samaritans are an endangered breed

IF YOU SAW SOMEONE in obvious distress, would you stop to help? Or would you pass by?

Many people would stop. Most wouldn’t.

Alex Fraser found that out a few days ago, and it confirmed what most of us have always known — we’d rather not get involved with somebody else’s problems.

Fraser is the trucker who pulled over near Blue River to help what he thought were stranded motorists. They turned out to be thugs, beating him senseless and leaving him for dead. He survived and is recovering in hospital.

Sadly, Fraser says he’s done with trucking, and doesn’t blame people who don’t stop to help stranded motorists even though he was on the other end of the equation last winter — his truck broke down and he was stuck on the Coquihalla at 35 below. And nobody would stop to help him.

Good Samaritans are out there, but there are all kinds of reasons not to be one.

The classic, Biblical definition of a Good Samaritan is somebody who helps a stranger in need. But even in the parable of the Good Samaritan, several travelers ignore the injured man before the Samaritan stops to help him.

I suppose there are degrees of willingness, or unwillingness, to help someone in trouble. The higher the perceived risk — or inconvenience — to ourselves, the less likely we are to intervene.

In March of this year, a man’s life was saved after he had a heart attack while playing at the Kamloops Curling Club. Other curlers started CPR, called 911 and used an onsite automated external defibrillator (AED) to get his heart going again.

By any measure, that was a Good Samaritan act, though there was no apparent risk to those who stepped in.

Risk can be as basic as being blamed if your help actually makes the problem worse. That’s why we have Good Samaritan laws to protect people who render assistance at auto accidents, for example. Yet many would rather not stop because they don’t know how to act in an emergency, don’t trust their own instincts, are in a hurry, or don’t care.

Three years ago, Fred Rusk entered a blazing mobile home on Pratt Road to rescue a neighbour’s pets. He took the risk that he could find his way through the smoke-filled home to get two dogs out of there.

Risk can’t always be readily calculated. A couple of years ago, Ron Gauthier chased a female purse-snatcher across Lansdowne Street. The thief had robbed an older woman.

Gauthier suddenly found himself facing a butcher knife wielded by the crazed thief. Fortunately, help arrived and the purse-snatcher was disarmed and arrested.

The simplest of good deeds can have unforeseen consequences. In one case, a man gave a stranger a lift to a Carson Crescent address only to be robbed at gunpoint.

Back in July, a Kamloops man stepped in to help a woman who had been thrown to the ground and was being punched by her boyfriend. He was attacked with a baseball bat, and landed in Royal Inland Hospital.

Even the classic case of stopping to help another motorist can be dangerous, as when a man stopped at an auto accident to help, and was killed by a speeding bus that didn’t slow down in time. In Detroit, a man pulled over to help a woman who had been beaten and was trying to flag down passing motorists. Her assailant suddenly re-appeared and beat him to death with a tire iron.

One of the most disgusting cases of people’s refusal to get involved happened in New York earlier this year. A homeless man went to the rescue of a woman who was being robbed. The thief attacked him with a knife and escaped.

The woman also fled. Twenty-five people walked by the fallen man during the next hour and 20 minutes. One man took his picture and carried on. Another stooped and shook him, then walked away.

It was all caught on a security camera. The man who had tried to help a fellow human bled to death before paramedics finally arrived.

Reacting to Alex Fraser’s story, a Daily News reader posted this comment: “I was a trucker for 35 years and heard stories like this dozens of times. Even knew two guys that were murdered in Oakland Ca. One outside his truck parked on a street, and the perpetrators sprayed ether through a vent and shot him from under the bunk. So as a result I wouldn’t stop for anyone no matter what the circumstances. Great world we live in when we become this hardened.”

Who can blame anyone for that sort of attitude? Alex Fraser’s story, and many like it, makes us realize the amazing sense of humanity that some among us possess. And that others don’t.

mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca

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About Mel Rothenburger (6109 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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