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One of the most vexing problems facing health care providers is in determining when they have a "duty to treat." In the common law, which is followed in the United States, one person does not have a duty to help another person. For example, if a person sees a child drowning in a shallow ditch, there is no duty to help. Even if the child could have been rescued with no danger at all, the law will not impose a duty to rescue, nor will it allow the parents of the child to sue for damages for the refusal to save the child. Religious and ethical codes would cause most persons to attempt to save the child, but the law will not. The law imposes a duty to render aid only if the bystander has in some way entered into a legal relationship with the victim. In the drowning child example, the owner of the land containing the ditch would have a duty to aid the child if the owner's negligence contributed to the accident. While most providers try to render aid whenever it is needed, situations may still arise where it is necessary to determine if the provider has a legal duty to render aid.

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