My freshman year of college I was paired with a random roommate. She seemed sweet, but also a little nervous, and anxious to fit in. Within the first couple of weeks of college, she went to a day party with some new friends she had made and came back with alcohol poisoning.  

It was clear my roommate had drank too much and needed medical attention ASAP. Some girls from the dorm and I got the RA, and she called for help. As the ambulance pulled away, I remember everyone worrying not so much about my roommate's safety, but whether or not she would be mad at us for getting her in trouble. "Why would she be mad?" I thought. We're saving her life.

Post-hospital visit, my roommate did get in trouble. She was fined by the police for underage drinking and received a drinking violation from the school. She had to go to special classes, and couldn't get into certain study abroad programs. And, she was pissed at me. 

The Good Samaritan Law

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Although I know we made the right decision at the time, I often think back to that moment from freshman year and wonder if things could have been different. I wonder if her new "friends" could have stayed by her side and taken her straight to the hospital, or if there would've been a Medical Amnesty Law in place where we could've called for help without fear of getting her in trouble. 

Luckily, if you're in college today, most campuses do have a law in place. That being said, if your new or old bestie drank too much, don't be afraid to seek medical attention and potentially save your friend's life.

There are different levels of legal immunity a Good Samaritan Law (or Medical Amnesty Law) can allow. But generally, Medical Amnesty allows those who are under the legal drinking age to call 9-1-1 and get emergency medical help for themselves or their friends without facing a Minor In Possession (MIP) charge. In some states, this law can also give legal immunity to those who have overdosed on drugs.

So, to be absolutely clear, if you and your friends have been drinking and you call the police, no one will get in trouble and you will get the help you need

It's hard to find stats to prove that these laws work, because you'd have to distinguish whether there are more alcohol related emergencies, or just more people calling for help. But back in 2002 when Cornell University introduced medical amnesty, Tim Marchell, director of mental health initiatives for Gannett Health Services on campus told the Cornell Chronicle, "We started seeing the number of calls to EMS increasing, for medical emergencies for alcohol poisoning. That is what we wanted to see." 

Where Are These Laws in Place?

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Christin Urso

Right now, 37 states and Washington DC have medical amnesty laws in place. The remaining 15 that do not include: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

If your state is listed above, be sure to check with your college campus. Some colleges and universities have this type of policy, where students are exempt from punishment by the school if they seek medical attention. So, rather than something like a suspension, a student would instead receive counseling to identify if there's a bigger issue at hand. 

How You Can Bring It to Your Campus

Devon Bortz

If this law or policy is not active on your campus, advocate for it. Bring it to you school's senate or join an organization. Organizations like Students for Sensible Drug Policy help students start chapters on campuses to push for medical amnesty laws and policies. Other non-profit orgs like Aware Awake Alive (which was started by a family whose son passed away from alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party) invite you to send a letter to your congressman to help pass legislation. 

Whether a medical amnesty law is in place near you or not, if you're put into a situation where someone needs help, do the right thing. From experience, I promise you that a small punishment, or your roommate getting slightly mad at you, is better than someone losing their life.