Advocates Call for State Laws to Encourage People to Seek Help for Overdose Victims

Advocates around the nation are pushing for state laws that give people limited immunity on drug possession charges if they seek medical help for someone suffering from an overdose, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Eight states have passed such “Good Samaritan” laws during the past five years, the article notes. A similar measure is under consideration in the District of Columbia, but faces opposition from prosecutors and police.

Critics of the laws say they are equivalent to get-out-of-jail-free cards. The measures condone drug use, and could prevent police from investigating drug dealing, or juvenile drug use, they argue.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington found 88 percent of opiate users surveyed in the state, which passed a “Good Samaritan” law in 2010, said they would now be more likely to call 911 during an overdose. The study found 62 percent of police surveyed said they would not make an arrest for possession anyway, so their behavior would not be changed by the law.

Most of the state laws protect people from prosecution if they have small quantities of drugs and seek medical aid after an overdose. The laws are designed to limit immunity to drug possession, so that large supplies of narcotics would remain illegal.

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    September 19, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    If this law had been in affect in Wisconsin my best friend would not be sitting in jail for 15 years because she tried to help a teen overdosing. She was clean at the time.

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    July 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    If this had been in place in 1996, my son may very well be alive today. My son was not just another druggie, he was a son, brother, grandson & was loved by his family & friends. He is (still) the first thought I have when I awaken & the last thought I have before I fall asleep. The pain of losing him never ends. He was my only son & I miss him. He didn’t need to die. If the two people who brought the heroin to his home weren’t afraid of arrest, they could have called for help when my son became unresponsive. Instead, they left him to die on the floor of his home . . . alone.

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