Who is a Good Samaritan?
The question has been asked throughout human history. Do we have an obligation to stop and help someone in distress? And if we do, is it a religious, moral, ethical, or legal obligation?
For most people, these questions and their implications fade in the background when they stop to render assistance.
All religions emphasize helping those in distress, irrespective of the person's religion or cultural identity. But this human response is not limited to those who profess to belong to an organized religion, or any religion. In this life we are all neighbors, even though we may not appreciate or recognize that fact.
The parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament (Luke 10:25-37) lays down the basis for helping others in distress. A Jew was robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was left half dead on the side of the road. A passing priest and then a member of the Levi tribe saw the injured man, but did not stop to help.
A resident of Samaria came upon the injured man, but did not walk away as the other two had done. He took him to an inn on his donkey, paid for his stay and his food, and made sure the man was cared for. This Samaritan was the true neighbor.
History is replete with stories of people who showed unconstrained selflessness toward those who need help.
One such story unfolded in Toledo recently, when two Good Samaritans put themselves in harm's way at the scene of an accident.
In the early hours of Aug. 4, a pickup truck collided with a semi in the northbound lanes of I-475 in Maumee's northwest corner. The pickup truck stalled in the middle of the road. No one was injured in the collision.
Many motorists saw the accident, reported it by dialing 911, and drove on.
But Jodi Lubas, a 40-year old single mother, stopped to offer help. So did Diana Dixon, who was driving a tanker truck.
A chain-reaction crash ensued, involving a motorcycle and another semi. Ms. Lubas lay dead. The driver of the pickup truck and the motorcyclist also died.
Ms. Dixon, the other Good Samaritan, saw the careening semi coming toward her and jumped off the bridge over the Ohio Turnpike, landing in the median below. She was critically injured in the fall.
Perhaps you could find fault with the way the two women stopped to help. They probably knew the danger posed by the vehicles speeding toward the accident site, but they put the welfare of the victims before their own safety. It was altruism, plain and simple.
Altruism is defined as self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. In our daily lives we are confronted with many helping situations where we give not only our time but also ourselves. Many times we are reluctant to help because of the fear of being ensnarled in a lawsuit over an unintentional injury or wrongful death.
On the surface, these may appear to be good reasons for not getting involved, but in reality they are flawed. Most states in America and many countries have laws that shield Good Samaritans from being sued for helping others.
Legal hair-splitting aside, all major religions teach compassion as part of faith.
It was in the spirit of the parable of the Good Samaritan that I went to pay my respects to Ms. Lubas at the funeral home. I learned that she was a selfless person who always extended herself to help others.
All who knew her were not surprised that she had stopped at the site of the accident. Her life, it seems, was defined by her eagerness to help others.
She was a true neighbor. What a marvelous legacy she has left for all of us.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a retired Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.
Contact him at: email@example.com