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What the 911 Good Samaritan law means

Opioid use is on the rise across all demographics across the country, and different states are implementing individual strategies and laws to deal with the consequences. In Wisconsin, the 911 Good Samaritan law passed in 2014 granted immunity for people who called an ambulance during an overdose. In 2017, the legislature revised the law to extend the immunity to the victims of drug overdoses to deal specifically with victims of drug overdoses.

What does immunity mean in these situations and is it was warranted? The 911 Good Samaritan law may be a crucial component in saving people's lives.

Immunity for bystanders

Much like standard Good Samaritan laws, the 2014 version granted bystanders immunity from prosecution if they called for help during an emergency. It encourages people in compromising situations to call for an ambulance if someone with them was in need of medical attention. Before this time, anyone found at the scene of a suspected overdose could face drug charges. In an effort to encourage people to save lives, the legislature created the 2014 law.

Immunity for victims

In 2017 there were 883 opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin. More people died due to opioid use than in motor vehicle accidents. With numbers like those still climbing, authorities and the governor's opioid task force once again revisited the 911 Good Samaritan law. They discovered a loophole in the law: While it protected those who called 911 on behalf of a person overdosing, it did not protect the actual victim of the overdose. When Act 33 passed in 2017, it extended the protections to those who overdosed.

These laws needed creating and amending to save lives. The opioid epidemic does not seem to be slowing down, and authorities and government officials are making every attempt to afford people the opportunity to get help on all fronts. Knowing that someone will not face legal charges if he or she helps someone in need and knowing that the person overdosing will also not face charges may help curb the numbers of opioid-related deaths.

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