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August 11, 2012

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Upset crowd tries to help sick man

AS an 87-year-old man lay along a downtown street yesterday morning, having fallen and bleeding from the head, a crowd gathered during the 15 or so minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive.

Among the 20-plus Chinese onlookers, some were taking pictures with their phones and sending the photos to their microblog, some were repeatedly calling for an ambulance and cursing the delay, some were crying helplessly, witnesses said.

Most in the crowd did not dare to touch him up for fear of worsening his condition or, some witnesses said, being sued in the wake of a series of cases in which good Samaritans were the targets of lawsuits or blackmail by elderly people they helped.

The man was sent by the ambulance to a nearby hospital, a 10-minute drive from the scene.

By late yesterday afternoon, he was reported in stable condition after emergency surgery. Doctors said he had a light stroke, causing him to fall down.

Yin Jia, a 26-year-old resident, told Shanghai Daily that he saw the elderly man suddenly fall near the intersection of Xinhua Road and Huaihai Road W. in Xuhui District about 8:44am.

Yin said he immediately called police and also called the 120 hotline for an ambulance when he saw him bleeding from the head.

The scene attracted a crowd, many of whom called for an ambulance.

"First there were only five people gathering around, then there were 10, and 20, and then even people driving on the opposite lane on the street parked their cars to watch," said Yin.

People in the crowd were taking photos, microblogging and calling doctors but did not approach the fallen man.

A middle-age man among them shouted to warn others, "Don't touch him," as he feared any amateur efforts to help might cause more damage, Yin said.

A foreign woman riding a bicycle yelled at the crowd in English that they should call an ambulance instead of just looking, without realizing that they already had, Zhu said. She rode away.

Zhu said one woman, a foreigner, came forward from the crowd, putting clothes under the man's head.

"The foreigner wept for the old man and when the ambulance finally came, she took out some money to other people, telling them to please pay medical bills for the man," said Zhu.

"I felt so powerless seeing this," said Zhu.

An official surnamed Wu with the Shanghai Medical Emergency Center told Shanghai Daily that they received the first call for help at 8:44am and the ambulance arrived 15 minutes later.

The incident sparked heated debates online, with some complaining about poor service and the slow speed of ambulances, and some debating how they should help in such cases.

"No one is so cold-hearted to watch an old man bleed on the street. But I cannot help asking myself, 'Am I rich enough to afford 200,000 yuan (US$31,441) compensation if the old man accuses me of pushing him down?' " asked a local resident, Liu Sen.

On Tuesday, a fishmonger who helped an elderly woman up in Xiangtan City of Hunan Province committed suicide by drinking a bottle of pesticide as the woman accused him of knocking her down and repeatedly asked him for over 200,000 yuan in compensation.


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