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The term good Samaritan derives from the biblical passage in Luke 10:30/33 of the New Testament. It is a description of how a man who is attacked by thieves is helped by a Samaritan, who was not even a person of the Jewish faith. Several people ignore the man before the Samaritan helps. This suggests the inclusion of gentiles into Christianity, a religion that will embrace not only the Jews but also all who believe in the one God and who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Since that biblical passage, which is a parable told by Christ according to Luke, a good Samaritan has come to mean any person who helps another without thought for reward. A person performing the Heimlich maneuver, for example, to save someone from choking to death could be described using this term. A person who risks her own life to save someone from a burning house or car is also a good Samaritan.
In most cases, the term does not apply to people paid to perform such acts. For example a doctor performing CPR at a hospital is not a good Samaritan, since he or she is paid to do so. A fireman who rushes into a burning building is heroic, but is also doing his job.
Some people disagree with this distinction, however, particularly in the second example. A fireman is risking his life every time he attempts to save someone under dangerous circumstances. Thus some would consider him or her a good Samaritan even though he or she might be paid for such risk.
For a time, people became somewhat leery of helping others in fear of getting sued by those they attempted to rescue. Especially in the US, for a while, a person who tried to help others was not always protected by the law, and this discouraged people from stepping in to help in a time of need. If a person performed CPR and cracked someone’s rib, for example, he could be sued even if he saved the person’s life. There are now good Samaritan laws in place in most places to protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save or render help to a person in need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is considered a Good Samaritan?
A Good Samaritan is an individual who provides assistance, often of an emergency nature, to a person in need, typically a stranger. This help is given without the expectation of reward or recognition. The term originates from a parable in the Christian Bible, where a Samaritan helps a traveler who has been beaten and left on the side of the road, exemplifying compassion and altruism.
What legal protections do Good Samaritans have?
In many jurisdictions, Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or whom they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders' hesitation to assist for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. An example is the Good Samaritan Law in California, codified in California Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102.
How does the concept of a Good Samaritan vary across cultures?
The concept of a Good Samaritan has parallels in many cultures, often tied to broader ethical principles of compassion and charity. For instance, the Islamic tradition has the notion of "Neki Kar Dariya Mein Daal" which means "do good and throw it in the river," implying that good deeds should be done selflessly. Similarly, in Hinduism, the concept of "Seva" or selfless service is a core tenet. These cultural variations underscore a universal human value of helping others in distress.
Are there any notable historical examples of Good Samaritans?
Throughout history, there have been many instances of individuals acting as Good Samaritans. One notable example is Harriet Tubman, who risked her life to lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Another is Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. These individuals acted selflessly, often at great personal risk, to aid others in dire circumstances.
What impact do Good Samaritan acts have on society?
Acts of Good Samaritans can have profound impacts on society by fostering a culture of empathy and community support. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, witnessing acts of kindness can cause an uplifting emotional response that researchers call "moral elevation." This can lead to a ripple effect, inspiring others to perform their own acts of kindness and thereby strengthening social bonds and trust within communities.