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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Time to broaden the Lifeline Law beyond alcohol

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, October 28, 2013 08:29 am
General Assembly members had a pretty good idea when they approved the Indiana Lifeline law authored by state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. It offers immunity for certain alcohol-related offenses to young Good Samaritans who seek medical help for those who are dangerously intoxicated. Sessions and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller had an even better idea when they decided to make a tour of college campuses to explain the law to the young people who would be affected by it.

Now Merritt is proposing to broaden the law in a way that makes sense, and Zoeller supports the idea. The new version of the law would offer immunity for those who seek help in all medical emergencies, alcohol-related and otherwise.

It never made much sense to forgive alcohol-related interventions and not other emergencies. It seemed especially odd not to shield those who sought help for someone suffering from a drug overdose or bad reaction.

Did it mean preventing drug abuse was more important than preventing alcohol abuse? Did it mean we cared about saving kids in drug emergencies less than we care about saving kids in alcohol-related emergencies? A medical emergency is a medical emergency, period.

Now Merritt and Zoeller seek to eliminate the inconsistencies, and that should make for a better law. So far only 11 other states have Good Samaritan laws that also include drug cases.

Some might be concerned that laws such as these will contribute to bad behavior in young people by forgiving certain bad behavior before the behavior is even committed.

That is a legitimate concern when we’re talking about an individual’s own behavior. If we assume kids are going to drink anyway and therefore provide them, for example, rides on prom night we are in a sense giving them permission to drink. If we assume they’re going to have sex anyway and start handing out condoms in high school, we are saying it’s all right for teenage boys to pressure teenage girls into having sex.

By sending the signal that we are always willing to shield our children from the consequences of their actions, we create at least as much harm as good. Why wouldn’t young people take advantage of our lack of adult supervision?

But this isn’t about a teen’s own behavior. It is about encouraging young people to watch out for each other. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” and they shouldn’t fear for their own futures if they intervene to save a friend in trouble.


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