Listening to the 911 call between the Emergency Dispatcher, and a nurse in a California retirement home, and hearing them argue about helping resident Lorraine Bayless who had collapsed, can give anyone chills.

It reflects a heartbreaking exchange between someone desperate to help, and another person reluctant to get involved.

The whole episode also raises critical questions about what the law compels us to do to aid ailing people we may encounter. Somewhat oddly, our law says that none of us has a “duty to rescue.”

Essentially, as one of my law professors once explained, you can sit on the beach and smoke a cigarette while you watch someone drown, and still have no responsibility. If, however, you attempt to rescue the drowning soul, and somehow hurt him or her in the process, you may be legally responsible for those injuries.

Florida has a “Good Samaritan” law, as does California. They aim to protect those who render aid from being sued for their efforts.

Here in Florida, the “Good Samaritan” Law protects those who render aid or treatment gratuitously in good faith, as long as the Good Samaritan acts as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would have acted under similar circumstances. It protects health care providers unless victims can show the health care provider acted with “reckless disregard” in trying to rescue them.

For the same reason people sometimes put their own lives on the line for others, the concept of legal responsibility does not always guide a person’s actions. Fortunately, our law recognizes that “Good Samaritans” should be protected, and as long as they act reasonably, they will be.