Opiate Overdoses: Good Samaritan OD Law in WI?

opiate overdosesWisconsin may become the next state to introduce Good Samaritan laws to help prevent increases in opiate overdoses.

Republican Assemblyman John Nygren is promoting a series of four laws that would protect addicts from prosecution when calling for help in the event of an overdose.

He calls these laws the HOPE Agenda. HOPE stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education.

Nygren nearly lost his own daughter four years ago to a heroin overdose, which most likely would have proven fatal had the girl’s mother not coincidentally come home early. Although the girl had been using with friends, they had all left by the time the mother arrived, without calling for help.

“When I got there, the friends had all left and she was alone. Addicts tend to be selfish. It’s all about them,” Nygren said. “It’s all about their next high. If someone overdoses, they don’t stick around to help…

“We in no way think this is a silver bullet to fix the problem, but it’s a step. Wisconsin is not alone in this problem.”

That problem has reached epidemic levels, with drug overdoses now the leading cause of accidental death in adults between the ages of 25 to 64. For every death from drug overdoses, there are 66 emergency room visits.

Despite the tone in Nygren’s comments, what he said is true—addicts are selfish, and it is “all about them.” However, it is not some sort of malice or indifference that motivates most addicts in these situations. It is fear.

That is in no way meant to excuse fellow addicts who leave someone to die of an overdose or refuse to call for help out of a fear of getting caught. I myself have lost a few friends from these very same circumstances and situations. It is awful, and it ruins the lives of all those involved. Those who flee do not realize that the burden of someone’s death on their shoulders is far heavier than the one of being embarrassed or doing time.

However, with laws such a Nygren’s, the main obstacle in getting those who suffer from a prescription drug overdose or other opiates overdoses the emergency care they need is a huge step in the right direction. It is not about selfishness as Nygren claims, but fear with dealing with those who actively want to see them incarcerated and taken off the streets. Naturally, the mouse is less inclined to cooperate with the cat after the cat has dragged off most of the mouse’s friends and family.

Despite the ridiculously forced and clichéd acronym name, the HOPE Agenda and Good Samaritan laws as a whole are sure to save more lives than punishing addicts by putting them in prison. Prison is not rehabilitation, and there is no rehabilitation from death.

What is your take on Good Samaritan laws in general, or the HOPE Agenda? Have you known anyone who has overdosed, and not received help from those nearby out of fear? We want to hear from you in the comments section.

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