In the new Superman film, Supie fails to rescue an important character in distress after the character requests that he allow him to perish.
Lawyer and superhero obsessive James Daily, co-author of “The Law and Superheroes” and the Law and the Multiverse blog, has taken to his keyboard to examine whether the transplanted Kryptonian had a legal duty to rescue the victim anyway.
His conclusion, and the law’s, is no. Daily writes,
“People are sometimes surprised to learn that, by default, there is no obligation under American law to help or rescue other people…Even “Good Samaritan” laws do not create an obligation to act as a Good Samaritan, but instead only encourage such acts of kindness by shielding some would-be rescuers from legal liability if they accidentally end up hurting rather than helping the victim. This “American rule” (not to be confused with the American rule for attorneys’ fees) applies even when a life could be saved with the most minimal of effort. As a result it has been called “morally repugnant” and “revolting to any moral sense,” but it is nonetheless the law in most states….”
That does not mean that Superman shouldn’t have rescued this individual anyway, especially since the reason for the proposed self-sacrifice is to benefit Superman. For the Man of Steel to acquiesce in what is an extreme example of utilitarianism, and dubious utilitarianism at that, is not super-ethics. OK, saving the life will make things a little harder for Superman (perhaps), but he’s Superman, for heaven’s sake. He’ll deal with it. Letting a human being die he could save because the victim argues, “It’s for your own good!” is just allowing someone else to make a bad decision for you.
Daily is right: Superman broke no law, and wouldn’t be civilly liable. Superheroes, however, are role models and thus are duty-bound to exhibit exemplary ethics, especially when the tights-clad vigilantes stand for “truth, justice, and the American way.” I’m disgusted with Kal-El, and boycotting the movie on principle.
You can read Daily’s whole piece here. Be warned that it reveals more about the situation, and thus the film, than I just did.
Pointer: ABA Journal
Graphic: Comic Vine
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