If someone is drowning and you refuse to help, are you responsible for his death?

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shadowdweller
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I recently watched an episode of a show where one of the characters is drowning in a similar situation, and the person with them refuses to help, despite it being well within their capacity.

After watching it, I ended up in a bit of a debate as to whether the friend was responsible for their death... if they could have prevented it, surely that means they're at least partially the cause?

But I know not everyone will agree on this... so the question I put to you is what side of the argument would you take? Would you be responsible for their death in the situation, or are you absolved?
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Andrew97
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It’s a tough one. I would say no, because you are not the reason they are drowning in the first place.
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Tiger Rag
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(Original post by Andrew97)
It’s a tough one. I would say no, because you are not the reason they are drowning in the first place.
Agreed. Unless you're a lifeguard or in other ways responsible for them.
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Arima
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I'd say it depends... if the person who could've saved them is just a random passerby, or a friend who didn't foresee this happening, then it wouldn't technically be their fault, they don't really have a responsibility to be looking after that person. If the passerby is instead a friend who convinced the drowning person to take a dip knowing full well they can't swim, then I'd say they're responsible. if the passerby is actually a lifeguard on duty, or their parent/carer then they would have some responsibility if they fail to act
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TheWiseFool
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Interesting. Really hard question to answer in my own opinion. I agree with Andrew97 that since they are not a factor for them being the situation of drowning so they are not a cause and as a result, can't be guilty. The only person that is guilty is the one who pushed the person into the water in the first place.

It would be a dangerous world if people who stood by and did nothing got prosecuted for crimes they didn't commit. Nevertheless, not helping when given the opportunity is some cases can be quite heartless.

Another way to phrase it could be are "Bad Samaritans"(well the priest and the Levite) guilty of the crimes on the Robbers?
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ameliedaf
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NO. It is actually dangerous to help someone who is drowning as somebody who is drowning and panicking will most likely hold on to you and involuntarily drag you down with them. It is absolutely not safe/possible to just go in the water and try to get someone out, unless they are significantly lighter than you are.
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Picnicl
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Yes, you'd be to blame because you only said 'you refuse to help', not 'you refuse to jump in and try to save them'.
Help can mean calling 999, trying to find something they could float on if you threw it in, trying to find someone who looks more physically strong than
you to try to save them etc.
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uberteknik
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Not helping, especially when the bystander is fully capable and in so doing does not place themselves in mortal danger, is reprehensible but not morally or legally obligatory.

Of course, such incidents will require a coroner's inquest which will determine the cause and circumstances of the death. If the coroner's verdict returns culpable accident, further prosecution will follow.

Which leads to the conclusion that as long as the bystander has no involvement in the prior circumstances leading to death, they cannot be held responsible.

The moral character and social status of the bystander may well be the victims of such inaction. Rather like a conscripts conscientious objection to fighting in a war.
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Chelseaboy1998
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legally speaking there is no liability for omissions(failing to act) at law. Unless in very limited situations where there is a special relationship (such as disabled person/carer or parent/child). Morally they may be in the wrong or at fault but the legal position is very clear, no liability for failing to act
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Philly1993
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Speaking as a lawyer, in our jurisdiction, there is no duty to rescue. So, no. In France, for eg, there is such a duty. Here, you would only need to rescue someone if you owed them a duty of care, for eg, you were a lifeguard on duty or you were a parent to a drowning child.
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uberteknik
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(Original post by Philly1993)
Speaking as a lawyer, in our jurisdiction, there is no duty to rescue. So, no. In France, for eg, there is such a duty. Here, you would only need to rescue someone if you owed them a duty of care, for eg, you were a lifeguard on duty or you were a parent to a drowning child.
Would the duty of care extend to say a policeman on duty, or would health and safety override such action?
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TheYearNiner
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Well luckily I can't swim.
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IrrationalRoot
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Strictly speaking no, you are not at fault in the slightest just for happening to be there and deciding not to help; consequently you do not deserve any punishment. Morally it's absolutely wrong not to help of course.
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CoolCavy
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No cos it might be a girl
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Tootles
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(Original post by shadowdweller)
I recently watched an episode of a show where one of the characters is drowning in a similar situation, and the person with them refuses to help, despite it being well within their capacity.

After watching it, I ended up in a bit of a debate as to whether the friend was responsible for their death... if they could have prevented it, surely that means they're at least partially the cause?

But I know not everyone will agree on this... so the question I put to you is what side of the argument would you take? Would you be responsible for their death in the situation, or are you absolved?
If someone needs help or else they'll die, and you take the decidion not to help them, in spite of it being within your capabilities, and assuming there would be no major cost to yourself, IMO you become responsible for their death, even though you didn't put them in that position. However, if it would have put you in danger too, you aren't responsible for it - even though you'll probably carry some weight of guilt for the rest of your life.
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pickleonthebriny
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If you called 999 in that situation (assuming it's a river/lake/sea/canal drowning as opposed to bath/hot tub/domestic structure), a) you'd technically already be helping them by alerting emergency services and b) you'd be instructed very strictly not to go into the water. You help no-one if you just create an extra casualty at the scene.
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by Tootles)
If someone needs help or else they'll die, and you take the decidion not to help them, in spite of it being within your capabilities, and assuming there would be no major cost to yourself, IMO you become responsible for their death, even though you didn't put them in that position. However, if it would have put you in danger too, you aren't responsible for it - even though you'll probably carry some weight of guilt for the rest of your life.
I would agree with this myself; if you're not endangered by helping them, then I see no reason you shouldn't be held as least partially responsible for their death if you don't. True, you didn't cause them to be in that situation to begin with, but you would be the reason that they remained in it.
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HighOnGoofballs
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It depends on a million factors.

But the main one is whether you have a duty to act or a duty to care?

A parent who is capable of swimming and saving his/her CHILD from drowning, can get tried for murder if they do nothing because they have a duty to care.

A lifeguard who is capable of swimming and saving a person from drowning can get tried for murder if they do nothing because they have a duty to act.

But a random passerby, no - you can watch them drown or just walk past and nothing will happen to you.
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Abcdefghijk123
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Yeah, I think you are.
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by HighOnGoofballs)
It depends on a million factors.

But the main one is whether you have a duty to act or a duty to care?

A parent who is capable of swimming and saving his/her CHILD from drowning, can get tried for murder if they do nothing because they have a duty to care.

A lifeguard who is capable of swimming and saving a person from drowning can get tried for murder if they do nothing because they have a duty to act.

But a random passerby, no - you can watch them drown or just walk past and nothing will happen to you.
Do you think the random passerby is not at fault from a moral perspective either? Or does that differ to what you outlined here?
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