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What makes a Good Samaritan?

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Laws tell us what we can't do. A good heart tells us what we should do.

Case in point is Jack S. Douglas, an 80-year-old man from Bartlett who was hit by a car and killed out on Interstate 57 Wednesday evening when came to the aid of a stranger lying injured on the road. We don't know much more about Douglas, except that he did what was right even when it wasn't safe, and for that we'd like to pay our respects.

Every so often, some town somewhere creates a "Good Samaritan law," usually to offer legal protection to people who come to the assistance of others in peril. So, for example, if you were to pull a child out of the path of a speeding train, you wouldn't have to worry about being sued for twisting the kid's arm.

But some Good Samaritan laws go further, actually requiring people to give reasonable assistance to others in an emergency, such as in the famous final episode of "Seinfeld." Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer go to prison for failing to be Good Samaritans. We can't prove it, but we're guessing those laws don't make much difference.

Mr. Douglas was driving north along I-57, near the town of Onarga, when he saw a man lying injured on the pavement. Jimmy Lee Westbrook, 58, of Tennessee, had been hit by a car when he tried, on foot, to retrieve a tire that had rolled toward the center median.

Douglas helped a passenger in Westbrook's car pull Westbrook to the shoulder of the road. Then Douglas tried to cross the road to get his cell phone to call for help, at which point he himself was hit.

Douglas set an example for all of us. So, for that matter, did Mike Hochhauser, a young man who chased down an alleged purse snatcher on Michigan Avenue on Black Friday. And so did Dr. Donald Liu, a Chicago surgeon who drowned in Lake Michigan in August while saving the lives of two boys caught in a rip tide.

All were Good Samaritans.

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"Laws tell us what we can't do. A good heart tells us what we should do." Amazing moral and legal summation.

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This page contains a single entry by Tom McNamee published on November 30, 2012 2:55 PM.

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