Louisiana Approves Legal Immunity For Overdose Witnesses

By McCarton Ackerman 05/22/14

Despite passing bills that impose draconian prison sentences on drug offenders, Louisiana has become the 20th state to put a Good Samaritan law on the books.

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In sharp contrast to harsh sentencing laws recently passed by the state, Louisiana has just approved legal immunity for people who witness drug overdoses, meaning that natives of the state will not face repercussions for notifying police of a potentially deadly situation.

Commonly known as the “Good Samaritan” law, the Louisiana legislature gave full passage to the law on Tuesday. Only an unlikely veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal could prevent the bill from becoming law. Several amendments were also made to the law that same day, including removing legal immunity from the person who administers the drug that leads to an overdose. The person who calls for help will also be legally required to stay on the scene, and provide both their first and last name to law enforcement officials upon request. Paramedics and firefighters were also given authorization to carry the opiate overdose antidote known as naloxone.

“Research shows the most common (reason) people cite for not calling 911 is fear of police involvement," said Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, during a committee hearing last March. "(The bill) would directly reduce the number of overdose deaths." The law comes in sharp contrast to the draconian drug sentences approved by the state earlier this month, which set the maximum sentence for repeat heroin dealers to 99 years. Tennessee also approved an equally harsh law that will send pregnant women to jail for doing drugs.

Louisiana will become the twentieth state to have some variation of the Good Samaritan law on the books. Georgia was the most recent state to approve the law last month, with the bipartisan campaign attempting to address that the state loses more than 1,000 people every year to drug overdoses. The law also expanded access to naloxone.

“Naloxone saved my life,” said Kathy Fletcher, who had accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs. “It should be available to the average citizen just like the EpiPen and glucagen because it’s just as safe, and the faster we get it to people the more [lives] we save.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.