The only one to stop and help a dying man
IF you spotted a stranger clearly in need of medical assistance, would you stop to help?
Ballina woman Leanne Ambruster was disgusted to learn there were plenty of people in her town who would rather look the other way than go to the assistance of a fellow human being.
Driving to her job as a legal secretary about 8.20am last Friday, Mrs Ambruster saw a man slumped over the side of his wheelchair at the corner of Grant and Tamar streets.
Mrs Ambruster said the street was very busy and at least four adults must have walked past the man without checking on his welfare.
The man was foaming slightly at the mouth and had dropped a bottle of milk, which had spilled across the footpath.
“Anyone who had taken the time to look could have seen in his eyes there was something wrong,” she said. “He had a look of panic.”
Mrs Ambruster drove round the block and came back to help and call an ambulance. She stayed until the ambulance arrived. By then the man's neighbour had also arrived.
Ambulance records show the man's vital signs were checked but he refused to be taken to Ballina Hospital.
But within 20 minutes ambulance officers returned, called by the man's neighbour.
This time the man was unconscious and not breathing. Officers tried to revive him and took him to hospital where staff made further efforts to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead soon after.
Police are yet to release the man's name, but confirmed he was 41 and a resident of Ballina.
He was a paraplegic as a result of an accident about 20 years ago. It is understood he had no family living in the area.
Mrs Ambruster said those who did nothing to help should be ashamed.
“For me it was a shock,” she said. “Ballina is a great little town, but where is the community spirit?”
Gail Moloney, who teaches social psychology at Southern Cross University, said the incident was a classic example of the 'bystander effect'.
“When the size of a group increases you get a diffusion of responsibility,” she said.
“People feel self-onscious or think there might be someone else who can cope with the situation better than themselves.
"From the research on this subject, you can't make any generalisations about the type of person who will take action in this sort of situation.
"It is not apathy or callousness that prevents people from acting. Often they are taking passive cues from others or it is the ambiguity of the situation that inhibits people.”
Mrs Ambruster was rattled by the incident; knowing the man did not survive, that people chose not to help and that the outcome could have been different.
“I don't know how long he was in this position before I got there, but I do know there were at least three male adults and one female adult that walked straight by and did not offer assistance,” she said.
“Shame on you, you know who you are and you should be absolutely disgusted in yourself. Let's hope you never find yourself in a vulnerable position and require help.
“I must say I felt apprehensive going to help. I didn't know if he was drink or drug-affected or whether he would come up swinging.
"But the point is he was a human being and he needed help. I would hope if I ever needed this kind of help someone would stop for me.”
The man's body was taken to Lismore for a post-mortem examination. The Coroner's department is investigating.