DEAR ABBY: "Horrified in Dover, Del." (May 30) describes a classic example of what psychologists call "Bystander Syndrome." It's a sad fact that the majority of people pass by an accident or simply stand and watch without helping because they figure that "somebody else" will do something. In many cases, nobody does anything, which can lead to serious consequences.
That is why it's important that people be familiar with basic first aid and not hesitate to take action when they see a crisis unfolding. And if you need something done for you, specifically select someone from the crowd, and indicate clearly to that person what you need. People are far more likely to take action when told to do so. -- STUDENT OF PSYCHOLOGY, LONGMONT, COLO.
DEAR STUDENT: The majority of my readers felt there were legal, ethical and moral reasons why a person should -- or should not -- help someone in distress. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In rebuttal to your assertion that there is "no excuse" not to help, there are at least two reasons why folks might not stop and provide assistance.
The first is general liability, where the lady might, after the fact, decide to bring a lawsuit if all didn't go well with the assistance she was provided. There is also the remote possibility that the accident was staged to provide a basis for a lawsuit.
The other is that the state in which the accident occurred may not have a "Good Samaritan" law, which limits the potential liability of a person who provides assistance to the person in distress. Without that law in place, the courts and juries are stacked against the Good Samaritan.
It's unfortunate that people who offer a helping hand place themselves potentially at financial and emotional risk. I only hope that I have the presence of mind in the future to withhold assistance in a state that has no Good Samaritan law. So far, I have always given assistance, even though I have promised myself I wouldn't. -- GOOD SAMARITAN LAW ADVOCATE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: In your response to "Horrified," you said, "There are still many caring people ..." "Still" is the key word. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when anyone would have helped without hesitation. Walking by was virtually unheard of. Now it's considered normal behavior. Hopefully, this diminished sense of empathy is reversible in our culture. -- STILL CARING, KELSEYVILLE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: After reading "Horrified's" letter, I must tell you about a similar incident.
"Tank" is a big man. He has only one leg and the other isn't in the best condition. He uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.
One evening during rush hour, Tank was on his way home when one of the wheels on the chair fell off. After a half-hour sitting by the curb in the cold rain with no one coming to his aid, he became disgusted. Being anything but helpless, he held onto the arm of the wheelchair and hopped up on his damaged foot. When the next vehicle drew close enough that he knew he'd be spotlighted in the headlights, he turned around and MOONED the vehicle.
Abby, the police arrived almost immediately to arrest the "flasher." However, after understanding Tank's predicament, they nicely summoned assistance. -- INTRIGUED BY INGENUITY
DEAR READERS: More on this tomorrow, from a different perspective.