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People hesitate to help fallen elderly

Updated: 2013-12-10 17:23
By Sun Xiaochen (

Helping an old person who has fallen seems an obvious kindness but has become a difficult decision to make in China, according to a recent survey.

More than 80 percent of respondents to a poll conducted by China Youth Daily, which surveyed 139,010 people, said they would hesitate to help a fallen elderly person for fear of potential disputes.

More than half of those polled said they would walk away from such a situation while only 5.4 percent would offer help without hesitation.

The result seems disappointedly cold-hearted but reality suggests not all such kindnesses are received with appreciation.

A series of disputes between good Samaritans and senior residents has made people anxious over such cases, while also drawing national attention.

On June 15, an old woman broke her leg when she fell in the street in Dazhou, Sichuan province, and then alleged that three children who helped her had knocked her down. She pressed the children's families to pay her medical fees of nearly 20,000 yuan ($3,290).

Jiang Zhiyun, the father of one of the children, reported the case to the police in November, who announced three witnesses verified the woman wasn't pushed but fell.

Police detained the woman for seven days but she was not jailed because of her age.

Not all helpers are lucky enough to walk away from such disputes without cost. Peng Yu, a young man in Nanjing who helped an elderly woman up after a fall and escorted her to hospital, was ordered to pay 40 percent of her medical costs by a local court in 2006.

Experts said the decline of social morality and coldness in interpersonal relationships is to be blamed for such incidents.

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