Calling for help shouldn’t be a crime
A campus Good Samaritan Policy (GSP) is a life-saving measure designed to prevent students from hesitating to call for medical assistance in the event of a medical emergency related to alcohol or other drugs by ensuring that, in an emergency situation, neither the caller nor the person experiencing overdose is exposed to academic or legal sanctions.
Consumption of alcohol and other drugs is widespread, particularly on many college and university campuses. Dangerous drug prohibitions and legal age of consumption contribute to both binge drinking and consumption of drugs of unknown purity and potency, sometimes leading to overdose. Even though alcohol poisoning can lead to a fatal outcome, many students refrain from contacting emergency services due to a threat of judicial consequences resulting from enforcement of the minimum drinking age or other policy violations. Effective policies protect students whether they are using alcohol or other drugs.
Colleges and universities without a GSP in place increase the likelihood that life-threatening emergencies on campus become fatal because, fearing harsh disciplinary responses to substance use violations, many students are hesitant to alert authorities during medical emergencies.
Good Samaritan Policies are critical harm reduction tools which should be fully implemented at the campus, local, and state level.
A comprehensive GSP Includes:
- A clearly worded, easily accessible, effectively enforced policy which is well known among the student body, campus administration, and campus public safety officers. GSPs are only effective if they guarantee amnesty in writing (usually in the student code of conduct) and the policy is widely publicized. If a school has the unwritten practice of excusing students from punitive consequences during emergency situations, but students don’t know about it, then it is like having no such policy at all.
- Amnesty from disciplinary actions for the person experiencing the medical emergency, the person(s) who notify authorities, and any other bystanders, as a maximum effort to promote fast action responses. Policies that do not cover all students are ineffective, it is important that protection be given to everyone.
- Amnesty from disciplinary action for all violation of all substance policies, not just alcohol policy violations. A GSP that only grants amnesty for alcohol-related emergencies is incomplete as it does not address medical emergencies related to other substances.
- Applies educational sanctions vs. disciplinary sanctions. Students are less reluctant to call for medical assistance as they aren’t fearing expulsion or suspension. In addition, educational sanctions may provide students with the information they need to avoid medical emergencies in the future and to share this information with their peers as a peer educator.