Delaware Is the 14th State to Get a Good Samaritan Law
Another bill giving legal protection to people who report overdoses is signed.
Delaware became the 14th state to enact a 911 Good Samaritan law when Governor Jack Markell signed the bill this afternoon. The measure—which gives legal protection for those who call 911 in the event of an overdose, and for the victims—won unanimous approval in the state's House and Senate. "If we might save just one life by removing the fear that prevents a victim or friend from calling for help, we should not hesitate," said Markell, who was joined at the signing by families who have lost loved ones to accidental overdoses. The law aims to encourage reporting of alcohol and drug overdoses and increase survival chances. Although those who report ODs cannot now be prosecuted for offenses related to illicit substances or underage drinking, they could still face prosecution for higher-level drug felonies. Critics say that this limits the new law's effectiveness. But advocates still believe that the new legislation will reduce "highly preventable" overdose deaths—now the leading cause of accidental death in the US.
In Delaware, OD deaths nearly tripled from 50 in 1999 to 137 in 2009, with a majority in recent years involving at least one prescription drug. Research shows that fear of police involvement is the "most commonly cited reason for not calling or delaying before calling for help" in overdose situations. "Now we need to educate people that if they are with friends, they don't need to be afraid to call 911 if things get out of hand," said Senator Cathy Cloutier, the bill's prime sponsor. "No one should die because of another's fear of getting in trouble."