Opposition presents ‘Good Samaritan’ legal amendment to protect first aid respondents

The amendments will ensure that people do not hesitate in helping others who are in danger, while also showing that the Opposition is a pro-active one, said PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario De Marco

The bill presents an amendment to the Civil and Criminal code, protecting first aiders from prosecution over damages. [Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday]
The bill presents an amendment to the Civil and Criminal code, protecting first aiders from prosecution over damages. [Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday]

The Opposition has presented a private members bill to the clerk of the House of Representatives that would amend the Criminal Code and the Civil Code in order to protect those administering first aid from prosecution over any damages caused, in good faith, while helping people in danger.

Nationalist Party deputy leader Mario de Marco said that the bill was a continuation of the Opposition’s approach of being proactive, rather than reactive.

He said that while it was normal for the government to set the parliamentary agenda and to decide which bills are to be discussed, he hoped the suggestions would be taken on board, and that parliament would be given the opportunity to discuss them sooner rather than later.

The bill was presented to the House by De Marco, and MPs Claudio Grech, Therese Comodini Cachia, Stephen Spiteri and David Agius.

In April, Education minister Evarist Bartolo had flagged the issue while responding to a parliamentary question on the number of first aiders in schools. The minister had also called for legal changes to protect first aiders indicating some degree of support for the change on both sides of the house.

Grech said that the bill would be proposing legal amendments that introduce the legal concept of the ‘Good Samaritan’ which he said is present in most legal frameworks abroad.

“The aim of this law is to ensure that people do not hesitate to give help to those in need simply because they are exposing themselves to the risk of criminal prosecution, or having to pay damages, as a result of trying to help,” said Grech.

He explained that the amendment would be seeking to protect those giving first aid to people in “clear and imminent” danger from criminal prosecution, as well as from being sued for damages.

In addition, the amendments would also allow for the person giving first-aid to someone in clear and imminent danger to ask for damages to be paid to them if the incident is caused by the person in danger.

Opposition health spokesman Stephen Spiteri said that the legal changes would bring about “a leap in quality” in the health sector, by allowing for healthcare professionals to help those in need even when they are off-duty, especially since their insurance does not currently cover work done outside of hospital.

Education spokeswoman Therese Comodini Cachia said the amendments would address a situation where teachers in schools “hesitate from helping out” out of fear of being prosecuted.

“This law will strengthen civil engagement and protect those that don’t ignore those in need of help,” she said, adding that the country’s laws should be protecting and encouraging people to do the right thing.    

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