The Law of Rescue

60 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2019 Last revised: 22 Jul 2020

Date Written: June 30, 2020


Diverse areas of law regulate acts of rescue, often inconsistently. For example, maritime law mandates rescue; immigrant harboring law prohibits it. Tort law generally permits but does not require it. Modern legal scholarship has focused principally on mandatory and permissive forms of rescue. With humanitarian actors facing prosecution for saving migrants’ lives in the Arizona desert and elsewhere, however, scholarly treatment of the phenomenon of prohibited rescue is increasingly urgent.

Analyzing disparate regimes of rescue, and focusing on migrant rescue specifically, this Article makes three contributions. First, it argues that the law of rescue generally privileges property rights and commercial interests over the ethical dimensions of rescue. Second, it develops a framework for evaluating rescue, one that focuses on rescuers’ liberty, beneficiaries’ dignity, and potential third-party harm. Third, it identifies and highlights creative ways to achieve humanitarian ends within the law.

Suggested Citation

Bhargava Ray, Shalini, The Law of Rescue (June 30, 2020). California Law Review, Vol. 108, Page 619 (2020) , U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3392117, Available at SSRN:

Shalini Bhargava Ray (Contact Author)

University of Alabama School of Law ( email )

101 Paul W. Bryant Dr.
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
United States

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