THE ABSENCE OF THE DUTY TO CARE
Friday, April 12th, 2013
Recently, an incident occurred in Alu community in Rivers state, Nigeria, where four young students were tortured for several hours and subsequently burnt alive in the presence of members of the community. This raised the question as to whether there is still any humane feeling in the members of our society. There is no doubt that the act was a display of barbarism as a result of the loss of values.
It is sad that a great number of people in a society as civilized as Nigeria still do not find anything wrong with watching a dying man become totally lifeless. Riding back from a dinner party on a cool Friday night, I noticed a crowd gathered around the scene of an accident, watching an almost lifeless victim struggle silently to stay alive. Like the typical Nigerian that I am, I asked myself, “Who could have cast such a spell on this dude?” On second thought, I told myself that the victim could have another opportunity in life, if any of the moping bystanders would be reasonable enough to help him to a hospital, instead of waiting for him to breathe his last. The thought sent shivers down my spine, and quickly, my friends and I came down from the car and rushed to the scene. On getting there, we realized that the man in the badly crashed car was not bleeding so much but was panting heavily, with eyes beckoning us to save his life. In anger, I turned to the moping bystanders and asked loudly “are you all standing and waiting for him to die? It could be you or your family”.
The statement spurred some people to action and they helped us lift him out of the badly damaged car into ours. But, the driver refused to convey him to the hospital without a police officer to accompany him there. To my surprise, I realized that, all along, some police officers had been standing and moping with the crowd. Quickly, I walked up to them and asked whether one of them would escort the driver and they turned me down immediately, saying that they were on duty. The truth is, they were busy doing nothing. However, after much pleading, one of them agreed to go with the driver.
The entire scenario made my mind flash back to a similar incident that had occurred about three years back, when I was travelling from Asaba to Lagos in a friend’s car and some military police officers flagged the car down at an accident scene and asked whether we could help in conveying one of the victims to the nearest hospital. To my disappointment, my companion wound up his car window and drove off. When I recovered from the shock and asked why he behaved in that manner, he told me that his Dad (of blessed memory) had warned him never to assist accident victims in Nigeria.
The question is, why do Nigerians act so nonchalantly towards a dying man? So many reasons have been given. For example, some say they get scared at the sight of blood, but then wouldn’t it be worse to stand and watch a bleeding man struggle so hard to live, until he breathes his last, when we could have freed our consciences by rendering some assistance, irrespective of whether he lives or dies.
Another argument is that doctors usually refuse to treat accident victims until some amount of money has been deposited into the hospital’s account on behalf of the victim. It is beyond comprehension that a doctor, who is trained to save lives, would see a dying man and insist on being paid first, at the expense of the victim’s life, when he could have done as little as administer some first aid treatment to secure his survival.
Consequently, others argue that they would be asked to foot the bill for the victim’s treatment, on getting to the hospital. I dare say, that argument is lame and inhuman because, any right thinking and reasonable person should be happy to expend his resources on ensuring that he is instrumental to another’s being alive.
The final and most potent argument is that the law enforcement agents (police) would usually hold the person who conveys an accident victim to the hospital responsible for his demise, if the victim died on the way to or on arrival at the hospital. This sounds very awkward, but it has been proven to happen in most cases. What I find difficult to understand is the rationale behind accusing a person who has only rendered assistance in conveying an accident victim to the hospital, and holding them responsible for the victim’s death.Hence, the attitude of Nigerians (the bystanders, law enforcement agents and life savers inclusive) towards a dying man can be attributed to nothing other than the fact that most people are self-centered. As such, they would rather secure their own comfort at the expense of a dying man’s second shot at life than sacrifice a bit to secure his life. However, all the blame cannot be put on them; after all, the law makes no provisions for the security of a Good Samaritan.
Thus, it is suggested that the law makers should enact laws that would secure a citizen who goes out of his way to help another citizen, especially when the latter is in a critical condition. In addition, if we can have laws that criminalize the neglect to prevent a crime (section 515 of the criminal code), why can’t we have laws that criminalize the neglect to help a dying citizen? After all, the two acts have an undertone of morality. Moreover, they both connote a duty to care.
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