Ethical Justification of Duty to Rescue

Legal requirements for a duty to rescue are not constant in all localities, states or nations. This makes it important to note that a moral or ethical duty to rescue may exist even where there is no legal duty to rescue. There are always political justifications for such a duty. For example, one sort of justification is general and applies regardless of role related relationships or “special relationships” (spouses, doctor-patient, employer-employee, etc.). This general justification implies that persons have a duty to rescue other persons in distress by virtue of common humanity, regardless of the specific skills of the rescuer of the nature of the victim’s peril. These would justify cases of rescue and in fact make such rescue a duty even between strangers (i.e.: The Good Samaritan). These would justify situations or instances of rescue and make such an act a duty even between strangers. Here are some specific arguments for such a duty to rescue or administer aid include, but are not limited to: The Golden Rule, Utilitarian Ethics and Care Ethics.

The Golden Rule dictates to us that we should treat others as one would wish to be treated. This means that every individual who wishes to be rescued or to be provided with aid should also be capable of being able to respond to another individual’s distress or peril to the best of their abilities. Utilitarian Ethics explains that actions are right which best maximizes happiness and that which reduces suffering (“maximize the good”). The argument supports the decision to become involved with rescue or aid as these choices contribute to overall happiness and reduced suffering. When an opportunity to employ the points of Utilitarianism presents itself, it becomes ones duty to perform actions which comply with the ethic. That being said, although this usually means participating with aid, during specific cases where providing assistance might make things worse it would then be their duty to live up to the ethic as best as possible. Care Ethics teaches the essence of morality and right behavior is tending to human relationships. Therefore, virtues such as compassion, sympathy, honesty and fidelity are to be admired and developed. Providing aid and rescue contributes to the development of important care ethic virtues making it a duty to participate and be involved rather than simply leaving emergency situations to fix themselves.

There are also ethical justifications for role-specific or skill-specific duties of rescue such as those describes from the discussion of common-law. These justifications are rooted into the idea that the best, most effective rescues are done by those with the proper and trained skill-set. Such persons, when available to rescue, are thus even more required to do so ethically than regular individuals who might simply make things worse. This particular ethical argument makes sense when considering the abilities of trained professionals who are able to prevent matters from becoming worse, providing the care and aid needed for specific or general situations and keeping themselves safe as they proceed to administer aid. These are some of the ethical justifications for a duty to rescue, and they may hold true for both the regular citizens and skilled professionals even in the absence of legal requirements to render aid.

Watch this awesome YouTube video that shows Duty to Rescue being in the military

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