I have always derived great satisfaction from helping others, whether it is holding a door for a stranger or helping someone in an emergency (once on my way to class, a pedestrian was hit by a car and I stayed to help them until the ambulance came).
However, a recent controversy has left me questioning whether being a ‘Good Samaritan’ can actually put you at risk. About a year ago, a story came out about a man that had committed suicide after reportedly being harassed by an elderly man he had helped.
The story of Wu Weiqing is a tragic one. Mr. Wu was riding his motorbike on New Year’s Eve when he spotted an elderly man who appeared to have been knocked down. Mr. Wu took the man to a hospital and generously paid for his medical bills. Sometime later, Mr. Wu was asked by the elderly man’s family to pay compensation despite not having knocked him over. Mr. Wu even received a mysterious phone call from a policeman demanding he pay a huge sum of money. Not having the cash and finding the pressure too much to bear, Mr Wu killed himself.
But this version of events has been disputed by the elderly man’s family: “If he hadn’t hit my father with the motorbike, why would he be so kind as to bring my dad to the hospital and pay for his medical expenses himself?” the old man’s eldest daughter told the Guangzhou Daily newspaper.
Whatever the truth, the story has prompted a huge response online.
“What is going on in our society?” wrote one microblog user. “How can anyone be a good man?”
There have been several high-profile cases in recent years in which injured people have extorted money from those who helped them. This has resulted in a fear of helping those in need. So much so that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has introduced a “Good Samaritan” insurance plan so that one can help without the fear of being scammed.
The $0.50 policy covers up to $6,700 in litigation fees for a year, should someone get into trouble. Within five days of it being available, more than 60,000 policies were sold.
This is a good sign that people are still willing to help others. However, I still find it deeply troubling that we live in a world where people need to fear helping other people.