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The Apathetic Bystanders

Lead in:

Task 1. Are these statements true or false? Give arguments to support your choice.

  1. A failure to assist a person in need is a crime or tort.
  2. There is a legal duty to assist a person in need due to the relationship between them.
    1. Parents have a legal duty to help their children.
    2. Spouses have a legal duty to help one another.
  3. There is an affirmative duty to act because one party has assumed the responsibility either by contract or otherwise.
    1. A day care center has a duty to call an ambulance if a child under its care has a seizure.
    2. A day care worker walking home from work has a duty to help a child who is having a seizure on the other side of the road.
    3. A lifeguard has a duty to assist a drowning swimmer in the area being guarded.
    4. A nearby swimmer who is a certified guard can be held criminally responsible for failing to help.
  4. A duty to help exists where one person has caused the situation.
    1. A negligent driver who hits another car, injury to the other driver, has a duty to call an ambulance for that other one driver.


Catherine "Kitty" Genovese was attacked and stabbed to death in 1964 in a highly populated area of Queens, New York. During the half-hour ordeal, 38 people heard Kitty's screams for help and watched from their windows. Twice the killer was scared off by the sound of voices and the realization that he was being watched. However, both times, when it became obvious that nobody was going to call the police, the killer returned to finish off his victim. Rather than give any aid to Kitty, such as calling the police or an ambulance, all 38 bystanders chose to pull their shades, draw their blinds, and ignore Kitty's urgent pleas for help as her life was taken by the deranged attacker.

Task 1

  1. What happened in this case?
  2. Who are the parties?
  3. What facts are important? Unimportant?
  4. Is any significant information missing?
  5. Why did the people involved act the way they did?
  6. What are the arguments in favor of and against each point of view?
  7. Which arguments are most persuasive? Least persuasive? Why?
  8. What might be the consequences of each course of action? To the parties? To society?
  9. Are there any alternatives?
  10. What questions might you pose if you had an opportunity to interview individuals involved in the case?

Task 2

1. Why do you think the bystanders took no action to help Kitty?

2. Did the bystanders commit a crime by not acting? Give your reasons.

3. Did the bystanders do the right thing?

4. Should the law hold citizens responsible for not helping out in cases such as this one?

5. Should the law impose civil or criminal liability on the bystanders who fails to help? Give pros and cons of such laws.

Date: 2015-02-28; view: 883

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