How much do you know about Good Samaritan Laws?
We tend to reference Good Samaritan laws when we talk about being witness to an accident or happening upon someone who is having a medical emergency. Our natural instinct is to want to assist the person or to call for assistance. Historically, Good Samaritan laws were written to protect the “helper” from being sued for wrongful death or unintentional injury. While basic Good Samaritan laws exist in every state in the union, the laws do vary from state to state.
In 2007 the State of New Mexico changed the Good Samaritan playing field by granting limited immunity from being prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance when seeking or obtaining medical assistance for any (including yourself) person experiencing a drug overdose. Now 21 states have similar laws and according to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy at least 240 American colleges and/or universities have a 911 Good Samaritan Policy.
More states consider new Good Samaritan Laws
In the past month both Arizona and Missouri considered new legislation for Good Samaritan laws.
The Arizona Senate Bill 1190 is sponsored by Senator Kelli Ward (R) and is referred to as Saving Lives, Saving Futures. According to Cronkite News Senator Ward offered: “We don’t want people to drop off their friends in the emergency department with a Post-it note on them and run away because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.” Her bill focuses specifically on people under 21 to dial 911 and ask for help from the police or emergency personnel and would not face being cited for underage drinking or for supplying alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age.
A number of college students attended the hearing and testified to their own stories and experiences. The measure was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 6 – 1. To underscore the issue Stephanie Habib of Cronkite News designed an Infographic: How does underage drinking affect our kids?
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The citizenry of Missouri is dealing with a heroin epidemic and lawmakers have proposed a 911 Good Samaritan Law. This law would grant immunity for drug possession for the person who places the call for emergency aid to assist their self or another who is overdosing on heroin or another drug.
Some final thoughts…
You may remember last September we published a post that talked about a number of alcohol related deaths on numerous colleges campuses and we focused on the then missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. The last time anyone had seen Hannah she appeared intoxicated. She texted her friends that she was lost. No one answered and sadly the remains of Hannah’s body were discovered in late October; her death was ruled a homicide resulting from violence of “undetermined etiology.”
Some of what we have covered today is graphic: Post-it notes on bodies, body dumping…unanswered texts. Many of us cannot imagine not helping someone in need…but at the same time those who are afraid of being arrested for using illicit drugs or underage drinking, being cited for being a minor in possession (MIP) will take all measures not to call for help. It is a parent’s worst nightmare that their child will be in distress from alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose only to become a “drag out” statistic.
Start the conversation, before it is too late.