Emergency Response

It happened at 3.30 am on the 3rd of June 2010.  Florina, 24 year old female student was driving her small car when it was involved in an accident with another car and a lorry.  A passerby, Teo, saw that she was trapped in the wreckage and more ominously, there were sparks coming from the underside of the car.

With her screams for help ringing in his ear, he drove to a nearby petrol station with the intention of borrowing a fire extinguisher.  He found two attendants inside the locked office.  The two attendants refused to let Teo in and also refused to lend him the fire extinguisher.  He then tried to buy the extinguisher outright but again the attendants refused.  The attendants were suspicious about Teo’s story and were concerned that it may be a ploy to rob the petrol station.  Teo tried his best to plead with them and also to convince them he was telling the truth by offering to leave his identification card but to no avail.

Teo returned to the accident scene and was powerless as he watched the car catch fire and Florina was burned to death.


News of what had happened spread rapidly on the internet through Facebook and other networks.  The petrol station was part of the BHP chain and soon bloggers were calling for a campaign to Boycott InHumane Petrol.

However, the opinion was divided.  Some felt that there was no excuse for not responding to save someone’s life in an emergency.  However, others felt that the two attendants were understandably and merely reacting to instructions given to them by their employers in response to recent robberies at petrol stations in the early morning.

What do you think?

I had a similar experience more than 10 years ago.  I drove past a man who was lying on the ground in a side lane, apparently suffering from a heart attack.  I stopped my car and immediately flagged down a couple of policemen on motorcycles.  When I explained to them what happened, they told me they could call for an ambulance but it might take too long to come and save the man.  They urged me to put the man into my car and take him to the hospital.

I agreed and we placed the man in the back seat of the car.  I then told the policemen that I planned to drive a short 5 minutes away to a doctor’s clinic so that the man can get medical help more rapidly (the hospital was 15-20 minutes away).  They agreed.

When I reached the clinic, two of the doctors and a nurse were actually outside having a cigarette break as they had no patients waiting at that time.  I got down and told them about the man in my car.  To my horror, the doctors looked in and with out even examining the patient,  told me I would have to go to the hospital.

I was shocked and insisted that they treat him.  One of the doctors then asked me if I was an immediate relative (it was quite obvious that I was not as the man was Malay and I was Chinese).  When I confirmed that I was not, she told me that unless the immediate family requests for treatment, they could get into legal problems.  Again no pleading could shift them as they continued to puff on their cigarettes.

I was left with no choice.  After wasting precious time arguing with the clinic doctors, I drove to the nearest hospital with police motorcycle escort.  Sometime during this journey, the man stopped breathing and they failed to revive him in the hospital.

I later told this story to the police and to the man’s relatives and they all seemed to accept it as “fate”.    I even talked to some doctor friends and they merely said that it was the way things are and the only advice they could offer was that in case of an emergency always head directly to a government hospital and not a private clinic or hospital as they latter often do turn away patients who are too seriously ill to avoid legal issues.

All I can say is that the way things are stinks.


11 thoughts on “Emergency Response”

  1. Thats true enough but you hear stories all the time about people doing good and saving lives. I don’t know what we can do to get people to always try and help.
    We can’t get to a point where we don’t help even if others won’t. We can’t let bad win over good.
    I guess it is the human race and it isn’t perfect.

  2. this is hard. to me too many people have “cried wolf” and manipulated the situation. on the one hand I can’t blame the people at the petrol/gas station because I’m sure there are plenty of stories where someone wanted to help someone only to be robbed. on the other hand I feel really bad for the person who died in the car fire and wish her life could’ve been spared.

    and as for the case with doctors…there probably were legal issues that had abounded and to save their skin they didn’t want to get involved. it’s sad that this is the way our thinks now. that we can’t help someone without worrying about being sued. what happened to being grateful?

  3. All I can say is that the way things are stinks.

    Agree. 100%

    I missed your transition, somehow. Now i need to do some reading to catch up! 🙂

  4. One is obligated to help a suffering fellow human being. I can not turn away when someone lies bleeding in the way. Its a moral obligation.
    Second, according to the law here the clercks (eventually, depends on whether they understood the situation. But they did not sell the damn thing, so they’ll see the can.) and these doctors (for sure: They actually saw the dying man!) get punished. Its called “unterlassene Hilfeleistung”, denial of assistance, and part of the criminal law. And because it is a crime against human life (people are dead, they could have survived) the public prosecutor will accuse them. And he’ll win.
    Fate is blind, but human sloth is not fate. Just a sin. I guess it was even counted under the seven deadly ones. (Cast iron humanistic socialisation, what do you expect?)

  5. Teri,
    At an earlier and simpler time, there was no expected conduct but to help someone in need. Somehow modern society has muddied that clarity.

    Edward Burke said that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” We must always shout out and prevent apathy to rule the day under whatever guise.

  6. Cabcree,
    There will always be “reasons” and excuses. I do not judge the petrol station attendants because many will have reacted the same way under the conditions that they were under. But we must act to remove the conditions that drove them to that type of decision that puts materials and possessions above human life. They could have been told that fire extinguishers should be left out for people to use and maybe prevent a future repeat of this form of tragedy.

    I am far less sympathetic to doctors who should have followed their Hippocratic Oath and didn’t.

    Hi Kathryn,
    Good to see you over at my new digs. I think your husband is in some form of emergency response, isn’t he? He must feel awful when people do not help out when they can make a big difference. Anyway, he and others like him are an inspiration to the rest of us.

  7. Mago,
    I’m with you. Humanity above all else. As a Christian, God placed “love your neighbor as yourself” as number two behind “love God”. But the world today seems to worry more about materials and possessions rather than people.

    Secret Agent Woman,
    Untimely and unnecessary loss of life. No silver lining here unless it causes the system to change.

  8. geewits,
    I hate what I see and it is very appealing to live somewhere else (and that may still happen) but I guess we’ve all got to do what we can to improve things where we are. There is an old slogan that says “Bloom where you are planted.”

    I guess the tragedy is that things are even worse in so many parts of the world. In Borneo, for example, I was told of a story where a woman had to trek from her village in the mountains with her ill infant son for 3 days to get to the nearest medical clinic. The child could easily have been saved if medicines were available quickly. As it turned out, he passed away in her arms that same morning they arrived at the clinic.

    So, I rant against the refusal of treatment of a patient by doctors and it is something that needs to be changed (and it is changing) but remained thankful that most Malaysians have relatively good access to medical help. But we can and must still improve.

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