Writing in the New York Times, Jay Sterling Silver argues that there should be. He begins from the grim story of a woman being refused help during Hurricane Sandy after her sons (aged 2 and 4) were swept away by water; goes on to say that law can strengthen the force of morality when it is used to penalize forms of immoral behaviour; and concludes that 'modestly impinging on the individual freedom to do nothing seems reasonable when a life hangs in the balance'.
I won't attempt to take a view on the issue starting from bedrock ethical premises and deductions from those; but I think it can be shown, on the basis of moral assumptions which are widely shared, that there is a case for Good Samaritan laws to compel aid to people in extreme danger or distress. The primary argument against this will be that such laws in effect conscript people to behave against their will if they don't want to come to the aid of others, and outside of national emergency, some would say, conscription is an unjustified invasion of individual freedom. Legally penalizing the doing of harm to others is as far as law should go - to punish someone for standing by to a preventable harm exceeds that proper moral boundary.
However, everyone who accepts the imposition of compulsory taxes some part of the product of which are used, for example, in foreign aid towards development programmes for eliminating poverty, or to fund the provision of medical resources on the basis of need, thereby accepts that deductions from what they have gained by their efforts can be justified. A lot of us do subscribe to this view. So why not also the principle of being obliged to come to the assistance of someone in danger? Here it might be said that taxes like those I have mentioned are quite general, whereas a Good Samaritan law falls unevenly, landing on just those people in a position to aid others in danger because of their (accidental) proximity. Yet taxes also don't always fall evenly; some may have to pay tax, others not, some may have to pay more tax and others less. Circumstances affect individuals differently in both types of case.
The key problem with Good Samaritan laws, as I see it, concerns how much risk to themselves people can be obliged to incur in going to the aid of others. Silver writes that a 'duty to help would not require bystanders to endanger themselves or provide help beyond their abilities'. I think that's got to be right. But I don't have the legal expertise to know how a statute would be framed to make it clear to people what was required of them and what wasn't.