U needs Good Samaritan law

By By Matt Plummer

By Matt Plummer

The War on Drugs has been waged in this country since 1969 when President Richard Nixon declared it. Although I think it must continue, it includes one fatal flaw.

Mandatory minimums, the three strikes law and school zone drug laws are just a few weapons in the War on Drugs. Strict laws concerning drugs show people that if they mess around with drugs, they will go to jail. But the fear of prosecution hurts people in need of medical assistance because they are afraid to come forward for treatment. Part of “Happy Valley,” a documentary filmed in Utah, relates how a teenage girl overdosed and her friends8212;fearing prosecution and discipline8212;did not call for help, and she died.

Enter the Good Samaritan Law: a proposed law gaining support in many areas that protects a person assisting another in an emergency situation, such as an overdose. The U Police Department had a total of 267 incidents of liquor and drug arrests and disciplinary referrals in 2007. A Utah Department of Health press release said the number of drug overdose deaths in Utah in 2008 was 517.

It is clear that drug use on campus exists, and there are 517 too many deaths related to drugs in Utah. The selfless thought and personal responsibility of calling an ambulance to save another person’s life should be justification for waiving legal prosecution and instead provide treatment and counseling. Saving lives is a priority, and offering amnesty from prosecution to those who call for help when somebody has a medical emergency related to drugs will assist this priority.

As it stands, there is no school policy that addresses this issue. If there is a medical emergency where EMS is called for an overdose, the U will investigate to determine who and what caused the incident.

“I would hope students would call for help in any emergency situation,” said Lori McDonald, associate dean of students. “I would rather face a behavior violation than having someone live with a tragedy.”

New Mexico has the highest overdose rate in the country. Under new legislation called the 911 Good Samaritan Law, drug users do not have to fear criminal charges when they call for medical assistance for an overdose victim. Cornell University has a similar policy for alcohol use, a Medical Amnesty Protocol implemented in the 2002-2003 school year. The year before this program, there were 63 alcohol-related EMS calls. Four years later, there was a 44 percent increase to 911 EMS calls.

Legislative action and U policy should be reformed to accommodate the Good Samaritan idea. Implementing such reform would not bring leniency to the War on Drugs, but it would definitely save lives.

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