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Abstract

Reports of how some bystanders interact with victims on the scene of an emergency are shocking. Instead of assisting or calling for help, these individuals take pictures or recordings of the victims on their cell phones. This Article concentrates on the question of whether such an interaction with a victim might in certain circumstances constitute a distinct and legally actionable harm. This Article proposes a new tort: exploitative objectification of a person in need of emergency assistance. It works to articulate the moral and legal foundations for an argument that treating a person in need of emergency assistance as an object of amusement should be considered a legally cognizable harm. Cognizant of concerns about over-breadth and moral overload, it clearly distinguishes between those who cross the line of engaging the scene and the victim (“engaged spectators”) and those who do not (“pure bystanders”). It argues for ample space for discretion in the decision whether to engage, respecting subjective assessments of risks and priorities as grounded in the emotional and interior life of the bystander.

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