Indian roads, which account for the highest fatalities in the world, became yet more dangerous in 2015 with the number of deaths rising nearly 5% to 1.46 lakh. This translates to 400 deaths a day or one life snuffed out every 3.6 minutes, in what an expert described as a “daily massacre on our roads”.
This clearly underlines the importance of good law to protect the accident victims and various attempts have been made by Government and in various judgements of supreme court. A report by the Law Commission of India highlighted, that 50% of people who died in road crashes could be saved if immediate medical care was given to them in the ‘golden hour’ i.e. the first hour. A nation-wide survey conducted by Save LIFE Foundation also revealed that 3 out of 4 people hesitated in assisting victims of road crashes.
But is it obligatory for a doctor or a hospital, both public and private, to provide immediate emergency medical aid to a victim of a road accident? Yes, it is obligatory, said the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement in 1989. (Paramanand Katara vs. Union of India: AIR 1989 SC 2039) but more than two decades have passed and implementation of this have failed by and large.
So in response to this lethargy in October 2014 the Supreme Court directed the Union government to frame guidelines for the protection of ‘Good Samaritans’, or helpful bystanders, and a Standard Operating Procedure to make them work. The Union Road Transport Ministry notified the guidelines in May 2015, and followed it up with a Standard Operating Procedure in January 2016.
In its landmark judgment on March 30, 2016, in the matter SaveLIFE Foundation v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court incorporated the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans and Standard Operating Procedures for their examination by police and during trial, and invoked its inherent jurisdiction to make them binding on all States and Union Territories. With these landmark guidelines now having the “force of law” conferred by the apex court, no bystander can be harassed if he/she brings a victim of a road accident to the nearest hospital.
- A bystander or Good Samaritan shall not face any civil and criminal liability arising out of helping a road accident victim.
- A Good Samaritan, who informs the police or emergency services for the person lying injured on the road, shall not be compelled to reveal his name and personal details on the phone or in person.
- Disclosure of personal information of the Good Samaritan in the Medico Legal Case (MLC) form provided by hospitals shall be voluntary.
- Disciplinary or departmental action shall be initiated by the Government concerned against public officials who coerce or intimidate a bystander or Good Samaritan for revealing his name or personal details.
- A Good Samaritan who has voluntarily stated that he is also an eyewitness to the accident shall be examined on a single occasion and the State Government shall develop standard operating procedures to ensure that bystander or Good Samaritan is not harassed or intimidated.
- Video conferencing may be used extensively during examination of bystander or Good Samaritan including eye-witnesses in order to prevent harassment and inconvenience to Good Samaritans.
- Lack of response by a doctor in an emergency situation pertaining to road accidents, where he is expected to provide care, shall constitute “Professional Misconduct”, under Chapter 7 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation, 2002 and disciplinary action shall be taken against such doctor under Chapter 8 of the said Regulations.
- In case a Good Samaritan so desires, the hospital shall provide an acknowledgement confirming that an injured person was brought to the hospital to such Good Samaritan.
Road safety drive starts today .