Drug Overdoses: Will the Good Samaritan 911 Law Save Lives?

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Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who provide assistance to those who are injured, ill or in peril. The reason for these laws is obvious: people who want to help should be able to do so without the fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. While Good Samaritan laws have been around for quite some time, a new topic of conversation is bringing this law to light.

Several states are pushing – and some have passed – legislation that would offer immunity to people who call 911 to report an overdose or bring an individual to the hospital for an overdose. The law does not protect people involved in drug trafficking but instead is designed to encourage people to call for help when a friend or acquaintance has overdosed on drugs.

Good Samaritan 911 Law Being Adopted by More States

In Delaware, the deaths of two young people first initiated The Good Samaritan 911 Law. These people died as a result of an overdose, and their friends were too scared to call for help. In Wisconsin, Rep. John Nygren learned that his 24-year-old daughter nearly died after overdosing on heroin. She was with friends at the time, but they were too scared to call 911, so they abandoned her. Some friends? Maybe. But the moral of the story is that when kids are out with their friends and something goes wrong, they need to feel comfortable calling for help.

This past spring, New Jersey became the 12th state to pass a Good Samaritan 911 Law. With the growing number of manufacturing, selling and using of illegal substances, additional measures are needed to protect young people, even if they are engaging in illegal activities. Just because someone is suffering from an overdose does not mean that they are not deserving of medical care. Doctors and hospitals can save a life in many instances, but they need to know as soon as possible.

How The Good Samaritan 911 Law Can Help Save Lives

Overdose stories tend to share similar qualities. Often there is a group of young people partying and mixing drugs. A friend ends up doing more than usual or combining drugs and having a severe reaction. The friends panic and are often not thinking clearly because they too have drugs in their system. In this state of panic, they neglect their friend or refuse to help because they don’t want to involve anyone else.

As you can understand, leaving a friend to die has many consequences. Not only does the family have to suffer the loss of a loved one that possibly didn’t have to happen, but also the friends have to live with the fact that they didn’t call 911. As cold as this decision sounds, it’s often one that is made in fear and panic, and the Good Samaritan 911 Law will hopefully facilitate more calls.

What are the Potential Pitfalls of the Good Samaritan 911 Law?

Of course, there is some criticism to the Good Samaritan law, as any time a large number of drugs is involved, some discretion is needed. Just because someone picks up the phone does not mean that authorities will turn a blind eye to the drugs that are present. But, what lawmakers and authorities want to express is that there are greater ramifications if help is not called. Negligence charges can be faced instead of drug-related ones.

Nothing is ever a magic bullet that solves the drug problem. The only thing we can do is continue making small changes that work toward the bigger picture of decreasing drug abuse and saving lives. It’s very difficult for parents and families to accept that their loved one was simply abandoned or left to die, and the friends who were present the night of the overdose often suffer emotionally as well.

The bottom line: Everyone has a right to good medical care. Most overdoses are accidental, and with prompt care due to the selflessness of others, lives can be saved and families mended.