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New law provides medical amnesty

August 3, 2011

By Michael Murray
Collegian Staff Writer

A new state law that shields underage drinkers from prosecution when calling for medical attention for a sick friend will take effect on Sept. 5.

The law, which was officially signed by Gov. Tom Corbett on July 7, is intended to encourage young people to do the right thing for a sick friend should a dangerous situation arise, Sean Moll said, legislative assistant for Sen. John Rafferty who sponsored the bill.

“There is no doubt that this law is going to save lives,” Moll said. “Only time will tell how many.”

Moll said young people often try to do the right thing for their friends by putting them to bed while they are dangerously intoxicated. The safer decision in an emergency like this, he said, is to call medical authorities.

Linda LaSalle, associate director for educational services at University Health Services, said the new law will help young people feel more comfortable calling for help in a alcohol related emergency.

“It will support students to make the right decision, and that’s what is important,” LaSalle said.

The law, often referred to as the Good Samaritan Law, does specify a few provisions that help to ensure it will protect callers with the intention of helping the sick individual, rather than those only seeking protection for themselves.

According to the new law, the caller must have reasonable belief that he is the first one to make the call for the sick individual. Next, the caller must provide the authorities with his or her real full name. Finally, the caller must stay with the sick individual until the authorities arrive. If these provisions are met, the caller will not be prosecuted for underage possession or consumption of alcohol.

LaSalle said students should always take action to get their friends help, even if they are only slightly worried for their friend’s health. With this law, she said, students will be able to put their friend’s safety ahead of the fear of getting in trouble.

“It’s always more important to save a friend’s life,” LaSalle said.