Drug overdose callers may get legal immunity

By chillinwill · Feb 20, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    SEATTLE – A pair of bills have passed in the Washington Legislature that would provide legal immunity for people who call medics when they see someone overdosing on drugs.

    Supporters say it will save lives while critics say it gives safe haven to criminals.

    Brenda Harrison has been clean and sober for 19 years. She’s now a counselor at Therapeutic Health Services. Her clients use drugs ranging from heroin to prescription oxycontin.

    She says almost any addict would hesitate to get help for a friend who’s overdosed if it means facing criminal prosecution themselves.

    "Even fairly kind people who have a good heart and some pretty good values, they will pause if it means maybe giving up their freedom for five, ten years,” said Harrison.

    In 2007, more than 760 people died in Washington state from overdoses. That includes 16-year-old Danielle McCarthy from Puyallup, who died after taking Ecstacy. The other teens she was with claimed they were too scared to get her help until it was too late.

    Stories like McCarthy’s have prompted lawmakers to push for the passage of a bill to give legal immunity to anyone who calls 911 when witnessing a drug overdose.

    "If we can save a life, then that is what I'm concerned with,” said Sen. Rosa Franklin, D, Lakewood.

    The bill made it through the judiciary committee, but Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, voted against it, saying it provides a safe haven to criminals.

    "Well I think we should do everything we can to save a life, that's absolutely right, but we can't do it in a way that creates holes in our very well structured drug law,” said Roach.

    Harrison disagrees, saying police and prosecutors can always pursue a criminal, but that a lost life can never be replaced.

    "If they're still breathing, there's hope,” said Harrison. “Once they're not breathing anymore, that's done. And so all the dreams of that family – gone.”

    A companion bill has also passed through a House sub-committee. The Senate has considered similar bills in the past, but not approved them.

    February 19, 2009
    King 5 News

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  1. madfan
    If any swiys are with someone who od`s & the emergency services are called,whats the charge?Surely,unless they supplied the substance to the victim,swim cannot imagine what offence they could be charged with.
    And to slap a charge on someone who has listened to their conscience & done what is,to all right thinking people - the right thing - seems in itself to be criminal.Its certainly very unjust.
    Swim doesn`t know where the law stands on this issue in the uk,but mr swim told her about one time in the early seventies when he & someone he knew from his drug clinic(where they were both inpatients taking "a cure")split a bag of heroin between them.Mr swim was fine but the other guy turned blue & naturally, mr swim,being a nice,right thinking kind of guy,called for an ambulance.
    Later,back at the clinic he was told that if the other guy died he`d be in deep shit.Its possible they may have said that just to give him a scare but he said it didn`t feel that way.But as swim said shes no idea where the law stands on this now & she certainly has no recollection of what it was back then.
    Surely,one only needs a modicum of common sense to see that if arrest is going to be the result of calling the ambulance then people are going to think twice.
  2. doggy_hat
    I find it laughable that prohibitionists claim that drugs should be illegal to protect people from the dangers of drugs. Yet here are some prohibitionists that are against allowing people to get OD treatment without imprisonment because they're criminals, and evidently they don't deserve to live, or atleast not without squandering tax money locking up someone for helping someone in need.

    Could you imagine your first day in prison after getting busted for calling 911 to report an OD? Someone would ask you what you're in for, and you'd have to tell them that you committed the crime of saving someone's life.
  3. aerozeppelin123
    "our very well structured drug law" lol don't make me laugh.

    Anyway I do not understand this article at all, like madfan said, what charge could someone face for calling an ambulance for a drugs overdose, unless they themselves supplied the drug? I've also never understood why you can't just call the ambulance, then flush or destroy any remaining drugs/paraphernalia before they get there. Surely that would get rid of any evidence and as long as everyone keeps their mouth shut nobody would face charges?
  4. cra$h
    they'll accuse you of a supplyer probably, and by not stopping someone from using, it makes you guilty of some bullshit charge. Glad to see that the fear of the law's being cut down though. If swim were to OD, he'd probably take it like a man instead of taking it in the ass by a fellow prison mate. users shouldn't be prosecuted at all in swim's opinion. If they hurt someone else (physically) then get involved, but let me get high, i'll be fine.
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