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Chinese bystanders in medical emergencies: apathetic or bewildered?
  1. Xiuli Dan1,
  2. Wenlong Liu2,
  3. Tzi Bun Ng1
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, School of Biomedical Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong
  2. 2Department of Orthopaedics & Traumatology, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tzi Bun Ng, Faculty of Medicine, School of Biomedical Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong; b021770{at}

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On 17 February 2014, a 35- year-old woman suddenly collapsed on the staircase at the exit of the Shenzhen Mass Transit Railway. The surveillance camera nearby recorded the entire episode. At 10:29, she was seen taking the steps but appeared to be very frail and fell down soon afterwards, lying on the steep rising staircase with her face down. She remained in this posture for 50 min. The first seven people who passed by did not stop to help. Eventually, 3 min following her collapse, two passersby chose to help by notifying the railway staff. When the railway staff and the police eventually arrived, they did not adopt any first aid measures to save her life but chose to wait for the paramedics. Unfortunately, the first aid crew arrived at 11:18 when the lady had already died.

The incident aroused heated arguments from the general public and reignited the Chinese controversy of to ‘help or not,’ which refers to whether to render assistance when an individual falls to the ground. Under such circumstances, assistance should be provided without any delay. However, in China today the public has become ambivalent and needs courage to be a good ‘Samaritan’. The goodness and readiness of people to help have been dampened by frequently reported cases where innocent rescuers were framed as perpetrators and convicted. Though these were individual cases, they have nevertheless greatly distorted the virtue of the public. According to a survey conducted online after a report of such cases, 44% of the 1883 participants decided not to help, 38% felt ambivalent and only 14% of them would be willing to lend a hand.1 People dare not …

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  • Contributors XD is responsible for conception, design and the drafting of the manuscript. WL is responsible for collection of information and the drafting of the manuscript. TBNG is responsible for critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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