Their stories are jaw-dropping.
Airdate: 
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS One

A woman who regrets saving the life of her daughter’s rapist. A woman who decided to donate her perfectly healthy kidney to a perfect stranger. A man who walked past someone dying on a mountain – and says he’s thought about that decision every day since.

They all join Insight this week to discuss whether there is any moral obligation to save a life. What if it means putting your own life at risk, or saving someone you despise or hardly know?

We also look at cases where someone in dire need has been ignored – sometimes with fatal consequences. Psychologists refer to this as 'the bystander effect" which says that if there are multiple people at the scene of a crisis, everyone assumes someone else will be the one to step in to help.

One guest on the program wants a 'duty to rescue" law, effectively forcing Australians to help others if they are in danger.

Presenter: Jenny Brockie  
Producer: Elise Potaka
Associate Producer: Luan McKenna


Web Extra

Here's what some of you had to say about saving lives on Weibo, Twitter and Facebook.

I saved someone at the roadside a few days ago. A kid suffered from epilepsy and fainted at the roadside. I called the police and ambulance. I feel very disappointed with those onlookers who do nothing but watch.

Translation: I saved someone at the roadside a few days ago. A kid suffered from epilepsy and fainted at the roadside. I called the police and ambulance. I'm very disappointed with those onlookers who did nothing but watch.

On a far less dramatic note, anyone who has given blood has saved someone's life. Same goes for targeted charitable donations, particularly to the developing world. Statistical lives saved may not be quite as sexy as rescuing someone from a burning building, but it is something that is easily accessible by everyone. Which I think is kinda cool


What are 'duty to rescue' laws?

'Duty to rescue' is a concept in law where someone can be held liable for failing to come to the rescue of someone who is in peril. For example, the paparazzi that arrived on the scene of Princess Diana’s car crash in Paris took photos instead of trying to help. They were charged with failing to help under the Duty to Rescue law in France.

In common law there are by and large no duty to rescue laws. In civil law it is common to have duty to rescue laws that oblige people to help others they find in distress, unless doing so puts them in harm’s way.

Good Samaritan laws are those that protect people from prosecution who go to help others they find in distress.

Duty to rescue laws in Australia

In Australia there are no duty to rescue laws, except in the Northern Territory. But Good Samaritan laws exist in most states and territories, with the exception of Queensland and Tasmania.

 


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Transcript

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Hi, I'm Jenny Brockie, welcome everybody, good to have you here tonight. Angela, I'd like to start with you, you saved the life of someone you despise, whose life did you save? 

 

ANGELA:  He was my partner and he raped my daughter. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how long had you been with him? 

 

ANGELA:  Four years, yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And I should point out that we can't show your face tonight. 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And the reason for that is because it would identify your daughter? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Just so everyone at home is clear about that. How long after you'd found out about the sexual assault did you save his life? 

 

ANGELA:  He made two attempts, the first one was a bit of a phony and I think that he did that to try and get my sympathy and get me on side. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  This was a suicide attempt? 

 

ANGELA:  A suicide attempt, yep, and then it was four days later he made another attempt, which was almost successful. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So tell us what happened, how did you find him? What were the circumstances? 

 

ANGELA:  Um, I'd been going backwards, we lived in two houses and I'd been going backwards and forwards between his house and mine and I hadn't been to the police at that stage because I wasn't 100 percent certain of the facts. I knew that my daughter wasn't lying but I also knew that he deserved the opportunity, if he wasn't lying, that we could do whatever we can to find some middle ground. So that took quite a few days.

He eventually disclosed to me that he had abused my daughter, not to the extent that she had told me. I had all my stuff out at his place as well because I was collecting gear, walked upstairs and when I went in there he was blue, his fingers were blue, his toes were blue, he was very - taking breaths not very  regularly at all, very raspy breathing. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what had he done?  Had he taken an overdose? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah, he had, he had taken an overdose, yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you help him straight away? 

 

ANGELA:  No, no. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you do? 

 

ANGELA:  I decided what to do. He wanted to die. Um, the, the best way out for him was to die. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And he hadn't been charged? 

 

ANGELA:  And he hadn't been charged and my daughter was having her last weekend before her whole world had changed and it certainly did change everything about our life. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you do when you found him?

 

ANGELA:  Um, I sat on the bed and I said to him that I know you want to die. I said but for my daughter it's not the best thing to have happen and I'm sorry but I'm going to save you. I'm going to try my best and that was probably about a minute I would say. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you save him? 

 

ANGELA:  I, I, I don't know. I actually can't answer that, I don't know. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I'm just interested in what kicked, what kicked in, if anything kicked in, what kicked in.  Given the complicated feelings that you had about this person - I mean this is your….

 

 ANGELA: Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  This is your ex-lover? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah, I know. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Who turns out has sexually assaulted your child? 

 

ANGELA:  Yep. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Which he eventually went to gaol for and he's trying to take his life and you're the only person who can save him. I mean that's an extraordinary picture? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah, I know. Um, why did I do it? I didn't really think about it, I just did it. It felt like a pretty, um, it felt like the right thing to do and it also felt like the wrong thing to do as well and we all know that the best way to get a child through an event where they've been abused is to believe them and support them and care for them and that's, if we - if he had died, we wouldn't have gone to the police so it would have all been swept under the carpet and we wouldn't have had a voice. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And did you think that at the time?  Were you able in that moment….

 

ANGELA:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Where that decision had to be made to think all that through? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah, yeah, I did. But then there's the other side of me that was very much in love with him, which is really hard to say. I was, my part of the relationship was wonderful, I couldn't have wanted for anything else.  So then, you know, you've got the man that you're completely in love with dying but on the other hand he's done this horrific thing that you couldn't even imagine possible, or that person doing it. But the decision was to revive him because he didn't deserve to die. Dying was a very cowardly act. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did your daughter say when she found out? 

 

ANGELA:  Oh, um, yeah, I didn't tell her straight away. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  She was how old, 11 or 12? 

 

ANGELA:  11, yeah, 11. I didn't tell her straight away.  The significant conversation was when he had disclosed that he had in fact abused her and I told her that and that's when she, you could just see the relief, it was like yep, okay, I'm going to be fine. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  There's so much I want to ask you about your decision. 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And we'll get to some of that a little bit later on. Mark, I wanted to talk to you about your situation because nearly seven years ago you became the first double amputee to climb Mt Everest. During that climb you walked past a man in serious trouble. What condition was that man in?

 

MARK INGLIS:  Oh, gee, just even telling my story tonight Jenny, beside the story I've heard from Angela makes - it's hard to imagine. On Everest, Everest is a very tough place, it's very steep, very tough climbing, and as we were going past we looked into this little rock cave, there was a guy in the very last stages of his life. You know? It was a very cold day, it was minus 50 degrees Celsius, it's hard to describe what minus 50 is like. You actually can't wear enough clothes on Everest at minus 50.  So you can't stop, you have to keep moving. We looked in there and the poor guy, his ears and his nose had gone from frostbite, he'd taken his down suit off at minus 50. One of the things that happens with hypoxia and hypothermia, in really extreme situations is you start to feel warm and he obviously had. 

And unfortunately above, the top third of Everest on the north side, if you can't walk you can't be rescued. My Sherpa, Dorji, and Dorji just was telling me move, move, move because you cannot stop for more than five or ten seconds in that environment. As soon as you stop you feel the cold come up - you feel the frost bite and the hypothermia come up through your limbs. I looked at him and thought you poor bastard, I saw him on the way back down where members of our team, our Sherpa were sitting with him until he died.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you think about trying to save him? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Not at the time because I didn't think he - I thought he was too far gone. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were criticised for what you did, weren't you? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Oh, hugely. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Even by Sir Edmund Hilary who criticised you? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Yes, Sir Ed didn't necessarily have the right information. He got told that I'd left a member of my team behind for dead, which was completely incorrect.  There were another 29 people past him that day and not one of them have ever spoken out. I'm sitting here tonight because I believe it's incredibly important for people to understand what Angela's been through, what Sam's been through and the other stories we'll hear tonight. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how different those experiences can be one to another?

 

MARK INGLIS:  Exactly, because we all live our life in a very different frames of reference. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think about that incident much? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Every day, every night. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Really? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Yep. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what do you think? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  I have regret but not regret in my actions, but regret in the fact that I was in a position that I couldn't actually do anything.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay. Brian and Kev in Toowoomba, welcome to Insight, good to have you with us too. Now Brian, you saved your neighbour Kev's life in the floods in the Lockyer Valley two years ago but you nearly had to let him go.  What happened, tell us what happened? 

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  We were in a situation that we were caught up very swiftly in something totally unexpected. Kev is extremely lucky that the three of us guys just happened to be there really, it was a timing thing, it was very much a timing thing, we just with grabbed Kev and we got going and tried to drag him out onto the higher ground. What happened was, we had to cross a barb wire fence and once we got him over the barb wire fence we were stumbling ourselves, we were getting physically exhausted and the other two guys, they tripped over and suddenly I had Kevin's weight. And I guess I went another four or five paces and still fighting the strength of the water and I had just said to him: "Mate, I don't know if I can go any further big fellow, I'm going to have to let you go."

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Kev, you have emphysema so what did you think when he said that? When Brian said to you "I think I'm going to have let you go", what were you thinking? 

 

KEVIN LEES:  Well, I was, I was just so buggered, I thought if he had to let me go, that would have been the end of me because I wouldn't have got out because I had no air left. But my nephew Clem arrived on the site after he fell over and grabbed me and he said:  "No way poppy are we letting you go, we're going to get you through this", and Brian kept hanging on and Clem hung on and next thing Tim was, I think it was Tim pushing from the back and they got me over onto the bank. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So Brian, did you actually let him go? 

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  No, thankfully, it was just something I said because I didn't know how much further I could go.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kev, what did you say back to Brian when he said to you that he might have to let you go?

 

KEVIN LEES:  I heard what he said but I don’t think I said anything back to him because I don’t think I had enough air to speak to him.

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  No, in fact Kev said ‘let me go if you can’t hold me, just save yourself,’ that’s what he said.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Brian, you also saved Kev's wife, Eileen, is that right? 

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  Yeah, we raced back and we got Kev's wife Eileen - I believe from memory, and I grabbed Eileen and next thing I think it was Clem on the other, other arm on her as well and we dragged her up to where Kev was. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Were you weighing up in those moments, Brian, your own life with other people's lives?

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  Look, there was no time to weigh anything up, unlike the two previous talkers.  It was just something we had to do really fast and I think anybody would do it. Like we're not heroes, we just, we're there at the time and we had a job to do and we just did it and thankfully we got there in time. 

 

 

PART 2. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tonight we're talking about whether we have a duty to save other people's lives. Sam, you're 20 years old, you saw a boy being attacked on a train station four years ago. What did you do? 

 

SAM PORTER:  So there was probably about twenty other older people than me at the platform, on the train station, and this boy was getting beaten up and robbed. They took his shirt off him, they stole his shoes, his phone, his wallet, and everyone was sort of standing around watching. So I started walking down there and they saw they were starting to get attention, the thugs, so they dispersed and run off and the boy jumped on the train tracks and…

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old was he? 

 

SAM PORTER:  He was 16 at the time. He jumped down on the train tracks and he was, you know, in hysterics. There was an on-coming train so someone, one of the adults, you know, yelled out is someone going to do something? So I was pleading with him to come up off the train tracks and he just said no, it's not worth it anymore, you know, I've copped this for too long, so I jumped down on the train tracks, grabbed him and put him back on the platform, calmed him down, waited till the train had left and then walked him home. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How far away was the train?

 

SAM PORTER:  It's hard to tell, probably 300 metres. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were you thinking?

 

SAM PORTER:  You don't have a lot of time to think. It was just sort of can I live with myself if, you know, the train does hit him and I've seen it all?  Can I live, you know, with myself knowing that I could have done something but didn't? 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So that was what went through your mind? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Yep. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you were thinking about consequences actually in that moment?

 

SAM PORTER:  I suppose so, yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In a sense? 

 

SAM PORTER:   I saw the train coming and I just thought get down there and just do what you can. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did it feel like you had a choice? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Not really, no.  In the end, no, it was, I was on the platform for a very short amount of time before I jumped down and grabbed him. It just sort of came as an instinct. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Interesting assessing risk here, because Mark, I mean listening to that you must be interested in that because it was a very different story for you assessing risk in your situation, wasn't it? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Yes and no. It's the environment that you're in, you know, and it's, the, the instantaneous event that Sam was in and, you know, Sam….

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Well you either act quickly, do it, hope it goes well?

 

MARK INGLIS:  Well Sam clicked into the whole upbringing he's had from his mum, from his family and everything else. And what's happened is Sam's clicked in as that's wrong, that needs to be fixed and he did it, okay?

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So there's a much bigger back story, in a sense? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  A much bigger back story. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I should explain about Sam's mum Marielle, because you're a police officer, is that right? I just wonder how you felt about what Sam did as a mother and as a police officer? 

 

MARIELLE PORTER:  Initially when he rang and told me about it, or he text messaged me just to say what had happened and I was with his father who also was a police officer as well. And it was oh that's great, proud of you honey and then just swore at him, because as a mum, what the hell were you thinking? You know, especially when I knew how close the train was. So obviously very proud of him but it just didn't surprise either of us because he is a very compassionate, caring person and I guess knowing too that young, particularly young males under the age of 24, their brains haven't developed properly yet and his is still developing anyway. They just, they're very, and say that with all the love in the world but they're very compulsive and they're very reckless and I don't think they think of the consequences. And that's not to take anything away from that Sam did because what he did was very courageous and very brave and being on the train tracks and the train being that close, I said at what stage were you going to let him go? 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And at what stage were you going to let him go Sam? 

 

SAM PORTER:  I didn't have any intention of letting him go. Obviously I could have wrestled him to the side or off that track on to the other tracks, I didn't intend on letting him go. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mum?  If you'd on the station that day would you have done it? 

 

MARIELLE PORTER:  Probably. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  It's in the genes, yeah?  Well Sam, you've saved two other lives as well as this one? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Becoming a habit Sam.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're only 20 years old. Tell us about the other two just briefly.  There was a woman who was drowning and someone in a car accident?

 

SAM PORTER:  Yes. The one in the car accident happened next. Me and my friend had just finished school, and I was driving past the local swimming pool and we saw a car up an embankment crashed into a tree. The car was a write off, it was pretty bad, so I pulled in and me and my mate Bill got out of the car, went into, looked in the windscreen and there was an elderly lady slumped over the steering wheel.  Her legs were in the passenger seat footwell and she was sitting in the driver's seat so she was quite stuck. So we helped her out, sat her in the back seat and called an ambulance. We managed to get her daughter's number who's a nurse, called her, call the police, tow truck and that sorted itself out.

Then the next one was I was working at a bar in St Kilda, right on the St Kilda foreshore, and it was quite a busy day.  One of my colleagues pointed out there was trouble out in the ocean and it was one of the ladies that was a regular at the cafe. So she was face down in the water so me, my manager and a patron from the cafe all jumped the fence, ran to the water.  By the time we got there a staff member of the gym next door to the cafe had pulled her out of the water and we rolled her onto her side, I cleared out her mouth.  We were trying, she was blue, she looked like she was dead.  So, and I was trying to get a response from her, wasn't getting anything.  So we were just about to start CPR and she took a very shallow breath and she slowly came to until the point where we got a response. Some people called an ambulance, the ambulance, and they came and we let professionals do their job then. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what is it about you and being around these things? 

 

SAM PORTER:  My friends are starting to call me a jinx so I don't know.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you have a sort of physical confidence about yourself that means that you do leap in and do these things? 

 

SAM PORTER:  I don't necessarily think so, no. Like only the first one, you know, has my physicality sort of ever come into it. The other two they didn't really at all. It was just, as I said earlier, you know, you can stand by and watch these things happen or you can go in there and do something. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  We're going look at something now that happened in China a couple of years ago, it's footage of a two year old girl being run over, but it's what happens afterwards that we want to talk about here and I should warn you that this footage is really distressing to watch. But I think it is important in the context of this discussion and what we've just been talking about. Have a look.

 

VIDEO PLAYS: 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You can see the girl, she's run down by the van which stops momentarily and then keeps going. Now what's interesting about this is what happens after. Have a look at this.  Another truck runs her over and people actually go around the child to just go about their daily business. It's quite extraordinary. There's a lot to talk about there and we have some people here that I wanted to ask about that. Sheng, you grew up in China? 

 

SHENG WU:  Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And like many Chinese you followed this case quite closely. Can you understand why so many people did that, walked past that girl, drove past that girl? 

 

SHENG WU:   Well I have to say that video is very confronting. But growing up in an environment I can understand why did it happen. Especially in I think 2006 there was a case called Pung Yu case where this guy helped an old lady who was knocked over at a bus stop. He sent her in the hospital, even paid the deposit, but after, but afterwards the old lady actually sued Pung Yu accusing that he was the one that knocked her over so suing him for money and compensation. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he hadn't been?

 

SHENG WU:   Probably we will never know because there was no video, there was no evidence, probably we will never know. But it's the verdict of the ruling that upset the whole nation because the Judge decided to write in the verdict, verdict - that it was against common sense for Pung Yu to send her to hospital and pay deposit because if it wasn't him, he could, he shouldn't have done that. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So he must have been guilty if he took her to the hospital? 

 

SHENG WU:   So it is highly possible that it was him. So the verdict Judge ruled that he has to pay 40 percent of the costs and stuff. Afterwards of course this case has been reported and made the big news all over China and ever since this is a very hot topic of helping people. Will you help people or not? And afterwards more cases has been reported, like…. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Of people being sued when they've tried to help? 

 

SHENG WU:   Yes. Especially was one, a bus, very similar story, an old lady was knocked over riding a bicycle by the side of the road and a bus driver called the ambulance and made sure that she was sent to hospital and afterwards the family was trying to sue the bus driver. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So this is encouraging people to ignore bad things that happen, in a sense, I mean…

 

SHENG WU:  Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that what you're saying, that these cases are actually stopping people from helping?

 

SHENG WU:   Yes, because for this latter case, especially because luckily the buses all have videos so the videotape was reviewed, it was clearly not him.  And then this old lady can just bluntly lie and pointing fingers at him, which of course is very upsetting. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So it's discouraging people from helping? 

 

SHENG WU:   Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I should point out that little girl died, some time after, a little while after that incident. What would you have done Sheng? Would you have walked past do you think? 

 

SHENG WU:   I would definitely have called ambulance but if I actually have time to think, I probably hesitate. I mean I probably would be a little bit scared of the uncertainty of what's going to happen next if I actually stood out and did everything.  But I would definitely call ambulance. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you'd be worried about you getting into trouble by trying to help in that context? 

 

SHENG WU:   It's definitely your subconscious. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And that's because of the Court cases in China where that's happened? 

 

SHENG WU:   Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Chen Shuxia, I wonder what you think about this? You grew up not very far from the city where that girl was run over, didn't you?    

 

CHEN SHUXIA:   Yeah, I'm from Guangdong province myself - that was totally a tragedy that shocked the nation two years ago. So some of the journalists after this incident they interviewed a lot of shopkeepers around the street, even like in front of the street saying what were you doing when this incident happened and a lot of them saying that they did not see it.  And also a lot of them confess that they actually don't really talk to each other even though they are working in the same street. So I guess there is not much community sense. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  There's a disconnection? 

 

CHEN SHUXIA:    Yes, yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Let's have a look the person who did actually eventually try to help that little girl, 59 year old Chen Xianmei. 

 

CHEN XIANMEI VIDEO. 

 

CHEN XIANMEI (Translation):  I was collecting the rubbish, I heard a child crying in the distance, the sound got closer…  There was a child in the middle of the road. I was wondering why nobody had helped the child. I held her up and had a look, I noticed she could not sit up and I asked her “Where is your mother?”  and she just kept calling  “Mummy.”

Many people keep asking me - Why did you do it? Aren’t you afraid?  I said “No, I’m not.” Saving a life is important. I received twenty to thirty thousand Yuan (as a reward).

 

MAN (Translation):  This money is for you so you can live better, eat better and don’t need to collect rubbish anymore, okay?

 

CHEN XIANMEI (Translation):  Give it to the girl for medical treatment.  I just gave away my money, as much as I had – I just wanted to save her. I never regretted it, I never regretted it.  We should help people, we should help people – it is normal to help others. A person can’t stand there and do nothing when someone is dying.

 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sheng, she seems very clear about what should happen, and interestingly it was the garbage collector in that street that was the only person who acted. 

 

SHENG WU:   I think that actually, well, her being a garbage collector or being really familiar with the society, it's like her area. She felt confident and safe to do such an action.  While other people, you know, extortion, the news of the extortion, blackmail that they've heard, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sam, you mentioned, there were a lot of other people on the platform that day that you saved the boy. What did they do? 

 

SAM PORTER:  As I said, there was one lady, she was probably a bit older as well.  She, I don't know, someone yelled out, you know, is someone going to do something? And then there was, as I said, this elderly lady, she sort of stuck around and stayed on the platform after I got him up. The train came, everyone got on and everyone's day continued. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when you jumped down did anyone try to help you? 

 

SAM PORTER:  No. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not at all, how did you feel about that? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Disappointed to be honest, disappointed that nobody did come down and you know, just see if, you know, he was alright even. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do the two of you think about that? 

 

ANGELA:  Oh, I think I probably would have been helping you up. I live in a little country town and was driving to work and a woman and her two kids had recently had a bicycle accident and 25 cars would have passed in each direction and no one stopped. But I stopped and I was just gobsmacked that nobody else would stop. I couldn't believe it.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Mmm.  

 

MARK INGLIS:  In October last year I was in a car accident in Noida, just out of Delhi, and my driver, my taxi driver ran over a motorcyclist, just whack, bang and he put his foot down and he sped away.  And I'm slapping him on the head telling him stop, stop.  And he was going no, no, no, no and I had to get him in a choke hold around the neck to get him to stop. And as soon as we got stopped he got dragged out of the taxi and beaten to a pulp and I can see then why he tried to get away.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:   I mean I think it's really important not to just, you know, focus on China here. These sorts of things, versions of these sorts of things happen in all sorts of places, all the time. Anyone want to buy into this argument?  Hang on just wait one second, yes? 

 

MAN: China's not exclusive with this, because I'm from New York City - I've seen the same thing.  You can see a homeless person on a street in the middle of winter freezing to death and people will just walk past them.  I think the only thing in common is that you have this huge city where people are just surviving.  They're just, they've gotten to the point where it's only, I can only take care of myself and I cannot get involved. I mean I've been in situations where I've seen this, where you actually feel that you want to do something but you actually back away.

But, and I'll say this, but something happened to me in Australia that really tripped me out. I lost my wallet and it was actually returned with everything in it. Now you people are laughing, you think it's funny, but coming from New York City, that's impossible. I have a better chance of winning the New South Wales lottery than that happening. But again, it made me think that there's something else happening here, and I'm not saying Australia is all of that and a bucket of chicken either, but you do have a different society here which, and I'm not, I'm still sort of trying to understand it, but I think it has something, at least in China and New York, it has something to do with people being so densely crammed together that there's something happening with them where you have to survive and everything else doesn't matter.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  We're going to hear now there Linda Jesser in Western Australia about what happened to her husband Grant in Kalgoolie several years ago. 

 

LINDA JESSER VIDEO: 

 

LINDA JESSER:  that was taken out in the bush, he was cooking lunch for us that day… look at his cheeky smile.   When I first met him, something just clicked, I just looked at his eyes and I thought, this is a lovely feller.

What I know of that night is that Grant was coming home and he had been assaulted by one guy and left in the laneway. Grant was unconscious and dying from a brain haemorrhage and two young fellers came across him and instead of being a Good Samaritan and calling for help, they decided to rob him and then one of them pulled out his mobile phone and started to film Grant as Grant died.

Grant was aspirating, he couldn’t breathe, he was in desperate, desperate need of medical help and this is what they did to him. One of them got 50 hours Community Service and the other one got a 9 month prison sentence – suspended. So they walked free from court, they were only charged for stealing the money. They should have been punished and if there was a law, they would have been punished.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  John, you acted for Linda, what sort of law is she talking about?  What sort of law does she want? 

 

JOHN HAMMOND:  Well there's scope for two laws. One is where the Judges of Australia recognise in a civil basis - that means one can sue for damages on a civil level, where if you don't rescue someone then you are liable in damages. Only in the Northern Territory do we have a criminal law requiring people not to leave people deserted, but the test there is are you callously disregarding them?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Now the WA Attorney General last year rejected the idea of a duty to rescue law. 

 

JOHN HAMMOND: Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Aren't there dangers associated with codifying something like that though? I mean particularly if people are putting or may have to put their own lives at risk and weigh up those?  I mean we've heard tonight how difficult those situations can be. I mean is the law too blunt an instrument to deal with it? 

 

JOHN HAMMOND: I don't believe it is. If the code is sensible, then the law does have a role to play.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you, so you want to see a law that would make it a criminal offence to not rescue somebody? 

 

JOHN HAMMOND: If it's what I would term an easy rescue, yes.  So if someone's, for example, drowning at the edge of a jetty and you have a rope you don't just turn your back and walk. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:   I want to go back to the bystander effect just briefly. Elisabeth, you’re an ethicist and a psychologist, what is at work in a group, is there a different dynamic that operates in a group? 

 

ELISABETH SHAW, ST JAMES ETHICS CENTRE: Absolutely and it's very well researched that group think can work to create great things if everyone's of one mind. But in a group there's so much noise happening about should I do something or is someone else going to do something?  That sort of fear of acting and the hope you don't have to act and it's deflected, your own moral compass is deflected by the amount of consideration there. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:    What does an ethicist think about the idea of a law to deal with this? 

 

ELISABETH SHAW: Look, I think that I would, I would like to believe that, that morally we could step up to this. But because there are so many different components and confusing elements that I do think law being there is a back stop is interesting because it would in some cases give people the confidence to act. There is that fear that if I act, how do I read the situation fast enough? What are all the implications? We also know that most people don't walk around knowing the law and so it's not really going to help because I didn't know about that law till I just heard about it now.  So I don't know that it's going to be hugely influential.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, there is no law except in the Northern Territory, and there's no law in any other part of Australia. But it's an interesting discussion point. 

 

ELISABETH SHAW: It's a leadership, it offers some leadership. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sam, you're nodding away here. What do you think about that idea?

 

SAM PORTER:  I totally agree. Like to call, for example, I wouldn't expect a 65, 75 year old grandmother to jump down, in my case, on to the train tracks. You couldn't really call, you know, the police or an ambulance at that stage because you've got to do something then and there. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Angela, these group situations are very different to your circumstance where you were the only person there in this, you know, really horrible you situation you found yourself in. Would it have been different for you? Do you think you would have done anything differently if you'd had anyone else there? 

 

ANGELA:  I think if it was any one of my girlfriends they would have dragged me out and left him there to die. Which, you know, some days that's exactly where he should be. Not every day. I sit on the fence completely. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you talked to your friends about it? 

 

ANGELA:  Endlessly. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Endlessly? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what sort of conversations have you had about it? 

 

ANGELA:  Most of my friends say you did the right thing but the really hard one to reconcile is he will get out of gaol and he will do it again and I'm the only person in the world that could have stopped him and I chose not to by letting him live. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  It sounds to me like you punish yourself with that to a degree? 

 

ANGELA:  Absolutely. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you? 

 

ANGELA:  Yeah, yeah, definitely. It's hard, it's really hard. Then on the other hand of that I have my daughter's recovery and she's doing incredibly well simply because she's had the opportunity to recover.  But then it's all the other kids that he will, he will reoffend - a dead paedophile can't reoffend, but he's not dead so he can. 

 

 

PART 3.   

 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tonight we're talking about whether we should always step in to save someone's life. Nicole, your father Ray lost his life saving other people from a burning building. Tell us what happened?

 

NICOLE JEROME:    Um, there was a fire in one of the other units, the fire alarm went off and I woke up my dad and told him that the alarm was going off and he went out, got the two people out where the fire was. The people from upstairs, he was sort of helping the firies and stuff like that and then had a massive heart attack out the front. Was revived and then had another heart attack at the hospital. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Looking back, how do you feel about him doing that, saving those lives? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    I wish he didn't. In a selfish way I feel that their lives go on, mine has stopped, my son's life has stopped. It's not been twelve months yet and my son has started to ask where his grandfather is now and why he did what he did. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what do you say to him when he asks that? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    I just tell him that, um, pop helped people and he would never have done anything else. Unfortunately he's not here with us now and then you get the comment, well, my son plays a lot of sport and he says to me do you think pop will be happy?  Do you think he'll be proud of me? And all you can say is he's watching you every day. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So there's still tremendous grief for you over this? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    Um..

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you feel proud of him? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    I do, yes, very much so. I know he wouldn't have done anything different and I wouldn't have expected anything different from him, but it's just a shame that it had to happen and that nobody else actually got in to help, it was just him who did everything. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, Margaret, you've taken a very different type of risk to save a life. Tell us what you've done? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Well, four and a half years ago I donated a kidney to somebody who I didn't know and still to this day don't know. I did it anonymously and I'm as fit and healthy now as I was then so I don't regret what I did.  I heard at the time that three and four people a week can die waiting for a kidney and I realised, I'd seen something on television where you could be a living donor.  So I went to my doctor and said that was what I wanted to do. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did your doctor say to you? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  She was sort of taken aback which I thought was very strange. She said you're the first person I have had come to tell me she wanted to do this. Not so much that I was doing it but doing it anonymously and I told very few friends what I did. My family, my daughter here, my two daughters and two sons and husband, they were all very supportive. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why didn't you tell your friends? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  I really kept it fairly private so I only told, probably I could count on two hands the number of people who knew when I went in to do it. And most, they were all very supportive.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why were you prepared to do it for a complete stranger? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Well it didn't matter to me that it was stranger, it was just somebody in need and I felt very confident about it and I didn't have any fear of doing it, even though I was told that what I was doing was putting my life at risk because some people will die in surgery, but I said it won't be me.  I was pleased I did it. I wasn't long, it was about five or six weeks later that I was back being able to play golf and I swim regularly so I was back doing those things. So to me it wasn't a big slice out of my life. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Five or six weeks? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  It's a big slice out of your body though. You make it sound like it's just a, you know, a brief, just a brief moment where you….

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Well I hadn't had much, I wasn't involved with surgery before that and I'd lived, as I said I probably wouldn't have done it had I been younger. We used to water ski a lot and things like that when I was in my 40s but at this stage I was 69 and I thought oh, I only play golf and swim and do craft and I'm pretty safe with one kidney. So I just thought somebody… 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I think this may be the most powerful argument for organ donation we've ever had on this program. 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  But it doesn't run had the family because my husband's taking all his bits and pieces with him, he says.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I wanted to ask your daughter about this. Catherine, can you understand mum's decision?

 

CATHERINE GOODALL:  I can and I was asked would I do the same and I think we are at different stages of life and I've got children who are dependent on me at the moment and quite young. But yes, I would do it for anybody I knew and that wouldn't be a decision that I would have to think twice about.  But no, I'm not ready at the moment to. 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  And the girls were supportive. One of my sons had said: Have you been to see the person that's going to tell you if you're bonkers yet? 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And did you see a person who asked if you were bonkers? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Yes. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What else did they ask? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  She didn't actually asking if I was bonkers but I had to see a psychiatrist twice.  There's lots of tests you had to go through. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what sort of questions were you asked? What were the things that struck you the most in those discussions? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  Well one thing that struck me that I hadn't really thought was what would happen if in six months time one of my children should need a kidney and I'd given one away so I didn't have any more left to give away, and I said well I think they'd then say, oh well, I'm sure Catherine would say the same, oh mum did it and it was no big deal.  So they would have stepped forward for one of their other siblings I felt sure.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Catherine? 

 

CATHERINE GOODALL:  Oh, absolutely, I wouldn't stop at donating to somebody I know. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Margaret, you don't know who got your kidney?  Do you care about who it goes to?  What if it was somebody you didn't like, or it was a horrible person? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:    I'd like to think they were looking after it and not abusing it by drinking too much alcohol or something.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Sam, does it matter who you risk your life for? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Um, depending what sort of circumstance but I'd say no. No, I think if someone's in trouble, then you just want to do what's necessary.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Brian, do you think it matters who you risk your life for because you're talking about neighbours and people that you know in the floods in the Lockyer Valley, do you have any sense of what you would have been like if it had been a stranger?

 

BRIAN WILLMETT:  No, it wouldn't have entered my mind I don't think who it was that was in trouble. I think it's just human nature that you just react in that way and like I said, it happened very fast so you just don't have time to think, I believe.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Elisabeth, do we actually make judgments about who's worthy of being saved? Does that come into play? 

 

ELISABETH SHAW: Look, I'm sure it does if you have time to think. You know, we're hearing about snap decisions and strangers and in that moment what you recognise is more the kinship imperative that there is human suffering and I move to respond, and so that is the case.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mark, you had your own life saved in 1982 when you were trapped for 13 days on Mr Cook. What happened, just briefly what happened to you? 

 

MARK INGLIS:  I was the leader of the search and rescue squad at Mr Cook at the time and on a training climb.  A new member and I were on the training climb and we got caught in what was at the time the worst spell of bad weather in New Zealand history. So we got to end up sitting in a wee ice cave that was smaller than a small chest freezer, you know, and it's cold. It's minus 20 and we tried to get out every day and we couldn't. After thirteen and a half days the weather cleared for three hours and I got rescued by my own search and rescue team.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How would you have felt if the rescuers had decided against rescuing, trying to rescue you. 

 

MARK INGLIS:  Would have understood it completely because you should live, you should never, when you have conscious thought, lose your life to save someone else's - When you have conscious thought.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Angela, did your former partner thank you for saving his life? 

 

ANGELA:  No, no, and I don't think he will. His children have, yeah, both his children have. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Would it have meant anything to you if he had thanked you? 

 

ANGELA:  No, no. It wouldn't have been real anyway. A complicated mind that I have no hope of understanding, I don't think it would have made any difference at all. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sam, did you get any thanks? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Off the, I never got any thanks as such off the boy from the train, from the railway station. Off his mother, I got lots of praise and thanks. From the lady in the, the elderly lady in the car crash both her and her daughter wrote letters to my school because they didn't know our address or where to find me or my friend so they sent in a written form of thank you.  And the lady at the beach that drowned, I knew her so yeah, I got a thanks out of her. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And you won an award? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Which is kind of thanks as well? 

 

SAM PORTER:  Absolutely. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Margaret, you don't know who got your kidney but did you get any kind of thanks, even indirect? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  No. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  No?

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  No.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you feel about that? 

 

MARGARET HAMILTON:  It doesn't worry me as much as it worries my husband. He thinks he would have liked to have heard, but didn't particularly worry me as much. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Nicole, what about you, did the people your dad save ever thank you? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    No, no, they just went on with their own lives. They don't feel that they did anything wrong, so yeah, we just…. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And how do you feel about that? 

 

NICOLE JEROME:    Angry.  Like I said, they get to go on with their lives.  My dad was very much everything in my life, did everything for me and my son and we've basically had to start all over again. Yeah, it's been very, very difficult for us. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Brian and Kev, how do you both feel now about what happened that day in the Lockyer Valley? Do you talk about it with one another? 

 

KEVIN LEES:  Yeah, we still talk about it. Go on a bit about it now and then but I nominated four of them for their bravery medal and they all received their little bit of copper or whatever they hang around their neck or whatever. So, yeah, they're all happy with that, yeah. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, great note to end than on, thanks so much for joining us and thank you everybody. Thank you very much for your stories, very difficult stories to tell I think but important ones so thank you. Good to have you all here and we do have to wrap it up here now but you can keep talking on-line. Go to our website, Twitter or Insight's Facebook page.