Rendering Aid

An 83 year old man went to the ATM in Essen, Germany, and surveillance cameras show he made three attempts but couldn’t reach it. He would fall. After the third attempt he couldn’t get up and stayed on the floor. The cameras further show that 4 people went by,  ignored him and went around him to the ATM.  The 5th person finally called for an ambulance. The man died a week later.  The courts have just fined 3 of the people who ignored the man. The fourth, said the NYT article, was deemed unfit for trial. The incident may be striking in Germany since they have a strong civic culture, but it could happen here, as in any number of countries.  Decades ago the case of Kitty Genovese made headlines when she was murdered in New York City and several people watched it from their windows and did not call the police. Fact is callous people exist. Their excuse in this case was that they thought he was homeless. To me that compounds the offense, as if a human life was worth less because it belonged to a homeless person. Ted Kennedy was haunted by what is called Chappaquiddick an incident where he left the scene of an accident that cost Mary Jo Kopeckne her life, and some historians say that played a role in his run for the presidency. We do have laws and maybe we could strengthen them. But aren’t these instances where we need to add social sanction? Certainly we need to make the lack of rendering aid unacceptable and in order to do so we need to create zero tolerance. Most children I’ve noticed quickly render aid if they see someone hurt, so the question is how do we nurture that?

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