Medical amnesty saves lives

By Ryan Mitchell

Many college students drink. What happens when one drinks too much? The student passes out, possibly with alcohol poisoning. Hypothetically, John doesn’t want to call public safety and have Jim, his friend, rushed to the hospital because he doesn’t want his friend to be charged with minor in possession. John chooses not to call and Jim dies overnight from alcohol poisoning. How do we stop these deaths? The key is medical amnesty.

An international group of students, known as the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, advocates medical amnesty policies, or Good Samaritan policies. They are concerned about drug use and the effects it has on communities and colleges, and they believe that the term war on drugs, first used in 1969 by President Richard Nixon, is failing. This group tries to get the young involved in politics and lobby for a reform of drug policies that negatively impact those that they represent.

Medical amnesty policies save lives by protecting students from prosecution or punishment in emergencies. Since many people fear legal reprimand, they choose not to call for help in the event that they or a friend becomes incapacitated or sick due to drinking too much or using drugs.

As such, the Michigan House passed a bill Oct. 21 exempting minors from underage drinking violations under certain circumstances.

Kate Beson, student council’s government affairs committee chair, believes that these policies need to be enacted and that they would not only save lives, but they could help suffering students to get the professional help they would need to cure addictions.

“Michigan State University has done a great job in the past advocating for student safety and specifically HB 4876, and it is time for Wayne State University to do the same,” Beson said.

Some argue that these policies would encourage drinking; that is not the case. In 2006, the International Journal of Drug Policy found that emergency calls had doubled after Cornell University’s Good Samaritan Policy was enacted in 2002, although alcohol abuse rates remained relatively the same. Instead of prosecution for drinking or doing drugs, rehabilitation programs and counseling would be a fair and helpful way to keep students out of trouble and get better.

The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act states that rehabilitation would be the right way of handling these types of situations.

If we punish students for a mistake, instead of rehabilitating and teaching them to make the right choices, nothing is going to change. I believe these policies are a must if the addiction and death rates of students are expected to decline.

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