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Ethical and Legal Implications of the Bystander Effect

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Madison Morlan

on 10 December 2013

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Transcript of Ethical and Legal Implications of the Bystander Effect

Ethical and Legal Implications of the Bystander Effect
Kitty Genovese
The case that started it all...
Young woman murdered in Queens, New York in 1964
Nearly a dozen people were aware of her attack, yet nobody called the police until after she was dead.
Established the "Kitty Genovese Syndrome," a.k.a. The Bystander Effect.

The Bystander Effect
- Area of knowing: Human Sciences
~ Bibb Latané and John Darley
~ There has been extensive psychological studying
and experimenting to research this phenomena
- "The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others hinders an individual from intervening in an emergency situation."
~ Diffusion of responsibility
-Way of knowing: Perception
~People in a group tend to observe others around them and base their actions according to how they perceive the actions of other people
How do bystanders know when, if at all, they have a legal or moral duty to aid others?

-Since Kitty Genovese's murder, there have been many laws implemented in attempt to encourage "Good Samaritanism"
-Good Samaritan Laws
~legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to people in need
~need consent
-Duty to Rescue
~legal requirement to aid others in distress if possible
~exception: reckless rescue attempts
-No international standard for these laws

Legal Ramifications

Good Samaritan laws vary by state, generally, the people that are most protected are trained emergency personnel.
The United States
Good Samaritan laws vary by province. New Brunswick and Nunavut currently have no protections for voluntary acts of relief.
Quebec is the only province with a legal duty to rescue.
Imposes a Duty to Rescue, called "Abandonment of Persons," punishable of up to 2-6 years in prison for failing to help a person in distress.
If observing someone in danger, citizens have an obligation to help (a duty to rescue), and imbedded in this law is a Good Samaritan protection that says the helper can not be held liable for torts that may have occurred while providing reasonable assistance to the person in need.
If someone witnesses an emergency situation in which providing aid would not endanger him personally, and they act as a bystander who does not intervene, they can be punished by law. If by providing assistance, they cause harm to anyone, they are held liable by the law to pay for medical expenses. This causes a moral conflict of interests.
Duty to Rescue
No Duty to Rescue
Ki Suk Han, a 58 year old man, was pushed into the subway tracks in a NYC Subway station after a dispute. A New York Post photographer, Umar Abbasi, witnessed it, and instead of trying to help him get up, he pulled out his camera and took 49 pictures before the man was hit by the train. He was not prosecuted on any civil or criminal charges.
After Princess Diana's fatal car crash, 7 photographers were arrested on suspicion of man slaughter because instead of acting to help Diana, they took photos of her car crash. The photographers actually stood in the way of rescue crews when they did arrive.
If you hit someone in a traffic accident and they survive, you are responsible for paying their medical expenses for the rest of their life. If they die on your impact, you are only required to pay one flat fee, which most often is much less. By the same notion, if you try to help someone who is already injured, you can be charged for their injuries.

Reason as a way of knowing:
Chinese courts use common sense as a justification for making rescuers pay for medical expenses, because if they made the effort to help them, they are, logically according to deductive reasoning, the one who caused the accident.
Peng Yu Incident

Peng Yu was a young man who was sued after he escorted an elderly woman to the hospital, who had previously fallen and broken her leg. The court ordered Peng Yu to pay 40% of the woman’s medical bills, explaining that “according to common sense” he wouldn’t have helped her if he weren’t in some way responsible for her fall.
Wang Yue
The two-year-old wandered away from her mother and walked into a crowded marketplace, proceeding in front of a large van, which then hit her, paused, and slowly continued going forward, running her over again. Security camera footage shows eighteen people walking by her without helping, and she was even ran over a second time by another car. An elderly woman finally pulled her out of the road, and yelled for help until her mother found the girl and took her to the hospital. She died of her injuries eight days later.
Perspectives on Bystanders Around the World
-People have the ability to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, for both them and others.
~utilitarian ethics
~duty ethics
-These ethical decisions can be hindered or encouraged by the law in different countries.

Ethics as an Area of Knowing:
How is morality regarding bystanders influenced by legal implications?
Legal Duty to Rescue and Duty Ethics:
-Duty Ethics can be defined as fundamentally doing your duties and fulfilling your obligations.
-Medical Personnel
~Duties are legally encouraged, and therefore their morality strengthened, according to duties to rescue and Good Samaritan laws.
Different Types of Samaritans
The Good Samaritan
- follows the innate moral compass to help victims of witnessed crimes.

The Hopelessly Bad Samaritan
- refuses to help, without ability to be budged by laws and/or a crowd of people.

The "Legally Swayable" Samaritan
- acts as a bad samaritan in the absence of lawful requirements, but would be coerced to help in the presence of legality.

The Delayed Samaritan
- initially fails to help, but later realizes their moral duty and comes forth with help to the investigation

The Passive Samaritan
- does not voluntarily offer relief, but if asked to help or questioned about the investigation they will participate.
How can we classify the bystanders of the Kitty Genovese murder case, and should their lack of involvement have been considered a crime based on the laws we have investigated?
Their Statements:
Robert Mozer
: "Hey! Let that girl alone!" he shouted from his apartment window
~Good Samaritan
Samuel Koshkin
: wanted to call the police but his wife didn't let him, she said: "there must have been thirty calls already."
~Passive Samaritans
Karl Ross
: Didn't call the police til 3:50 a.m. after he called his friend and asked for advice on what to do.
~Delayed Samaritan
: "We thought it was a lover's quarrel!"
: "Frankly, we were afraid."
: "I was tired."
~ all Bad Samaritans
Crime or not?
-Current duty to rescue laws would impose charges
-no requirement for physical involvement because that imposes a potential for personal harm
-verbal help such as Robert Mozer's, or calling the police would have been sufficient to avoid charges
"Bystander Effect and Diffusion of Responsibility."
Heroic Imagination Project
. Heroic Imagination Project
RSS. <http://heroicimagination.org/public-resources/social-influence-forces/bystander-effect-and-
Chaney, Allison. "Good Samaritan Law." Princeton University. <http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/

Gado, Mark. "The Kitty Genovese Murder."
Crime Library
. N.p. <http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/

Jaeck, Francois, Peter Cooke, Walter Verstrepen, Tatu Hendriksson, Peter Schetter, Joao Teixeira De Matos,
Mauro Massiello, and Igor Martin. "The Good Samaritan Law Across Europe."
Dan Europe
. <http://

Lagemaat, Richard Van De. "Ethics."
Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma
. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
2005. 377-79. Print.

Lubman, Stanley. "After the Foshan Tragedy: China’s Good Samaritan Debate."
China Real Time
. China Real

Minter, Adam. "China's Infamous 'Good Samaritan' Case Gets a New Ending."
. Bloomberg,
17 Jan. 2012. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-17/china-s-infamous-good-samaritan-

Volokh, Eugene. "Duties to Rescue and the Anticooperative Effects of Law." UCLA Law. University of
California, Los Angeles. <http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/rescue.htm>.
How emotion acted as a way of knowing: The photographers simply reacted to the situation, and whichever emotion they felt drove their reaction.
-Shock---> took out their cameras
-Empathy---> tried to help
How reason acted as a way of knowing: Abbasi logically thought that the flash from his camera would somehow alert the train of danger. Using his reasoning, he reacted how he saw fit.
How reason acts as a way of knowing:
The law forces people to involve themselves in emergency situations, and also protects them from repercussions, so people logically see no harm in trying to help, and will therefore aid people in distress.
How do Good Samaritan laws and legal "duties to rescue" act for or against the bystander effect?
-Good Samaritan laws who protect only medical personnel (USA) cause the bystander effect to occur
~most people are not trained medical personnel, and therefore are not protected and
will likely not get involved
-Hefty laws such as in China cause extreme cases of the bystander effect
~people put the financial cost over the morally right thing to do

- In conjunction (Germany) the laws encourage people to involve themselves in emergency situations, therefore reducing the bystander effect
-Good Samaritan laws (USA and Canada) can slightly reduce the bystander effect but encouraging certain types of people to get involved.
-Duty to Rescue laws alone, (Quebec, Argentina, and France) essentially force the reduction of the bystander effect
How do bystanders know when, if at all, they have a legal or moral duty to aid others?
-Depends on the country
-Often times overrules moral judgement
-Must be aware of the laws in order for them to take effect

-Depends on their upbringing
~utilitarian or duty ethics
-Can be based on other peoples moral decisions within a group
-Requires a conscious effort to put morality over laziness and/or carelessness

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