Governor Deal signed a bill last year that could save lives, but is not widely known. Georgia is now the 19th state to pass limited prosecution immunity to people calling emergency services to help save someone suffering from an overdose.
The “911 Medical Amnesty Law,” grants limited prosecution immunity to people who seek help during a drug or alcohol overdose. It also extends legal protections to people who administer naloxone to someone experiencing a drug overdose.
More specifically, this law provides protection for people who call 911 and seek medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug or alcohol-related overdose. The caller and the victim cannot be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for small amounts of drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia if the evidence was obtained as a result of seeking medical assistance.
The law also increases access to the opioid overdose “antidote” naloxone, also called Narcan. Physicians may prescribe naloxone to a family member, friend, or other person in a position to assist someone at risk of opioid overdose, and to first responders, harm reduction organizations, and pain management clinics.
Pharmacists are permitted to dispense naloxone under that prescription. The physician, pharmacist, and person administering naloxone are immune from civil, criminal, and professional liability as long as they act in good faith and in compliance with the applicable standard of care.
The timely administration of naloxone can reverse the effects of opiates such as heroin and opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and others. Victims of opioid overdose who receive naloxone in time are less likely to die or suffer long-term brain or tissue damage.
Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) introduced the bill after she was approached by a group of Georgian advocates, many of whom had lost friends and families to drug overdoses. “Last year a similar law passed in North Carolina that has been responsible for saving many lives,” she said Cooper. “I’m proud of this bill and of our young people who are helping to spread the word about it.”
We all know someone who has died because of an overdose, whether intentional or unintentional.
Georgia loses more than 1,000 people each year to drug overdoses. The purpose of the new law is that it will help reduce these premature deaths and offer an opportunity for treatment to those struggling with addiction.
Laurie Fugitt, a nurse, advocated for the law after seven of her friends lost children to opioid overdoses because no one called 911 or had naloxone on hand.
This law brings back the scene in Pulp Fiction when the young person was overdosing and no one wanted to call 911. Fear prevented the call.
This law takes away that fear and gives overdose victims a second chance at life.
Unfortunately, not all law enforcement agencies are aware of this new law.
According to the Daily Report, a former police officer who worked for one of our state universities said he was fired after following the new law barring criminal charges against anyone voluntarily seeking medical help for an alcohol or drug overdose. He has filed a whistleblower suit against his old department, the university’s police chief and his former supervising officers.
This university is in trouble.
However, sometimes it takes something like this to bring attention to new important laws that, as here, are meant to de-criminalize conduct that saves lives.
Congratulations to the State of Georgia for passing the 911 Medical Amnesty Law.