First of its kind legal settlement with the State of Colorado and the Duty to Rescue

My mantra in writing a blog is that I’m not that smart, my ideas aren’t unique, and the only thing I am a world class expert in is me :).

My Colorado friends who read the newspaper or watch the local news saw my sister, Iris Eytan, appear not once, but twice this week. She’s a criminal defense attorney specializing in helping people with disabilities. Earlier in the week, a young man with a disability, innocent and falsely accused, her client, was freed from the potential of a lifetime prison sentence.

Later in the week, the State of Colorado settled a lawsuit that ended the practice of mentally ill people accused of crimes waiting up to 6 months, longer than their likely sentences, for needed medical care.

The settlement is the first of its kind in the United States.:

On behalf of the Legal Center for People With Disabilities and Older People, Denver attorney Iris Eytan argued in U.S. District Court that defendants’ rights to due process were being violated in the state in U.S. District Court .

A court compromise announced Monday means hundreds of mentally ill people accused of crimes in Colorado each year could spend less time waiting for state doctors to determine whether they’re ready for trial — and to provide treatment if they’re not.

Read more: Colorado settles lawsuit over inmates’ mental-health evaluations – The Denver Post

I never envisioned that my sister would grow up to sue entire States on behalf of vulnerable people, and the part about me is that I didn’t envision a lot of the stuff I do either (I have a bit of a civil rights background as well). So I asked her where she thought this came from, and she quoted from the Jewish law on the Bystander’s Duty to Rescue, which I hadn’t heard of, but looked up (thank you, internet!):

This duty to rescue is derived from the peculiar interpretation the Talmudic rabbis gave to two biblical verses, thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor (Leviticus 19:16), and thou shalt restore him [a person who is losing his life] to himself (Deuteronomy 22:2). It obtains even if the success of the rescue operation is in serious doubt from the onset or cannot accomplish more than a brief prolongation of life.


Thus, the Maimonidean formulation of the Jewish law of the Good Samaritan does not restrict the duty to rescue to outsiders witnessing or finding a person in distress. It extends the duty to anyone informed or aware of the danger to another’s life. The essential criterion is “if one person is able to save another.”

It’s been an interesting insight for me, because the law implies that the Duty extends beyond just what is in front of the person. My existence is based on the rescue of my family long ago (See: “Finding Your Home,” from 2008 ), and I find myself drawn to and surrounded by people who have this extended Duty. These people are the ones that read faces of others and say, “you don’t look well, what’s going on?” instead of walking by and saying nothing. They tend not to ride the wave. They are unsatisfied not just with the status quo in front of them, they are unsatisfied with the status quo anywhere. The other interesting thing about this is that I can see this approach to life across all ages and genders, even in the very young. Part genetic, part culture perhaps.

And speaking of social determinants of health – let’s enjoy the fact that we have potential partners in every profession, in every industry, who feel the Duty to Rescue, and can make a huge difference beyond, and in collaboration with, the health system.

In Colorado, just one out of 50 States, 1,062 people accused of crimes who are mentally ill and needing care will now get it.


Colorado settles lawsuit over inmates’ mental-health evaluations
By Jessica Fender
The Denver Post
10 Apr 2012

Police arrested a homeless Calvin Harris, 46, in August after he allegedly threatened two Denver postal workers with a baseball bat when they told him to remove his belongings from the post office property. Before his felony-menacing case could begin…read more…

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Ted Eytan, MD