•  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Currently in Pennsylvania, if your friend is overdosing and you call the police to save her life, you can get arrested.

And that will not change any time soon. The House got the hell out of dodge before passing a bipartisan-supported bill that would have granted immunity to Good Samaritans who witness drug overdoses and call for emergency help. The move (or lack thereof) was criticized by the ACLU of Pennsylvania yesterday.

“This bill has the potential to save lives,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of PA, said in a statement. “And it is a step back from the enforcement mentality toward drug use. For decades, the commonwealth has tried to incarcerate its way out of the drug abuse problem. All we have to show for it is a bloated prison system, shattered lives, and no dent in drug usage.”

Such a law is recognized in numerous states throughout the country, many of which have passed it in recent years. In most cases, the largest concern is the lives such immunity could possibly save. As noted in the ACLU’s press release:

“When someone overdoses, everyone’s first thought should be, ‘How do we save this person’s life?’ It is time to treat drug use as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states and the District of Columbia have some form of immunity for witnesses to overdoses who summon emergency services, which are sometimes called “Good Samaritan” laws. Hoover noted that there appears to be consensus among lawmakers and advocates for the concept of the bill in Pennsylvania.

“As this legislation has moved along, it has been clear that legislators from both parties, law enforcement, civil rights advocates, and drug policy experts agree that there is a need for some form of immunity for overdose witnesses who summon help,” Hoover said. “Now the legislature simply needs to push the bill over the finish line.”

In some cases, critics have argued such a law could interfere with law enforcement’s ability to do its job. In Pennsylvania, however, there was little opposition to the idea. Rather, it’s failure was just the basic ineptitude the commonwealth has become known for. It didn’t come up for a vote, so it didn’t pass, and now everyone’s gone home.

About The Author

Staff writer

Randy LoBasso is the winner of the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association's 2014 Distinguished Writing Award for his news and politics coverage at Philadelphia Weekly. He has also contributed to Alt Ledes, Salon, The Guardian and PennLive.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Login with your Social ID

Your email address will not be published.