Minister lukewarm on Good Samaritan law for Hong Kong despite official mascot ‘Anyone’ urging residents to help with CPR
- Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan says legislation ‘may not be the best way forward’
- Several countries including Britain, the US and Canada have laws in place to protect rescuers from legal action
Hong Kong’s health minister on Sunday offered a lukewarm response to the idea of passing a Good Samaritan law to provide protection from lawsuits for first aiders if they make mistakes.
Calls for legislation have emerged following the launch in August of a first-aid mascot by the Fire Services Department encouraging Hongkongers to step up and help people in need during an emergency.
The blue mannequin-like figure, named Anyone, is teaching the public how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
However, the citywide campaign has given rise to concerns about the risks of civil or criminal liability should unintended consequences arise.
Asked whether officials would consider legislation to dispel concerns about lawsuits, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said she would look into the issue.
“We need to examine our first-aid capabilities and the general public’s understanding and willingness to do this [legislate] before looking at what we should do next,” Chan said.
“We do not want to have a piece of legislation just because rescuers are not capable enough. That may not be the best way forward.”
Anyone has found favour among internet users for its quirky demonstrations of life-saving techniques in cartoons.
A live version of the mascot played by real firefighters with their faces concealed has been seen in videos since Monday. The real-life Anyone was initially ridiculed but has since proved popular. The mascot offers advice on fire prevention, first aid, and escaping a blaze.
Dr Abraham Wai Ka-chung, clinical assistant professor of the emergency medicine unit at the University of Hong Kong, presented the case on a radio show on Sunday for a law to protect rescuers.
The absence of legislation had discouraged Hongkongers from offering help, he said. Many trained first aiders had only undergone a handful of hours learning CPR and harboured great fears about getting it wrong, he believed.
“Although there has been no such case so far, these rescuers may stand back because they are worried about legal risks and their lack of confidence,” Wai said.
“A Good Samaritan law is precisely to protect these righteous and brave people.”
The doctor said that over the past 20 years the survival rate from heart attacks in Hong Kong had ranged from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent – relatively low compared to other advanced economies.
Several countries have passed a Good Samaritan law or similar legislation, including Britain, the United States and Canada. Other nations, including Germany and Finland, have a duty to rescue law, which requires people to offer assistance and holds liable those who fail to do so.
Since Anyone debuted, the government has released a series of videos teaching Hongkongers how to revive a patient. The short clips feature celebrities and quirky dance moves to make the resuscitation techniques more memorable.