Some young people may not be aware that the Indiana Lifeline Law was passed and is now in force to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.
For this reason, Indiana attorney general Greg Zoeller and State senator Jim Merritt, R-District 37, are traveling to different campuses, encouraging medical intervention during alcohol-related emergencies. On Wednesday, they spoke at Purdue with that very goal in mind.
The Indiana Lifeline Law was passed in the Indiana General Assembly in March and took effect July 1. It creates legal immunity for the person who calls emergency services, so that person cannot be prosecuted for crimes such as illegal possession or consumption. The individual in need of medical care, however, does not receive legal immunity.
In a recent news release, Zoeller said, although it was college students who proposed the bill and the Legislature passed it without opposition, a lot of people are unaware of its existence.
“By raising public awareness that the Lifeline Law protects them,” Zoeller said during the press conference, “we hope that young people will not be as reluctant to call 911 – and will instead seek medical help for impaired friends and not look the other way.”
Merritt, who authored the bill, said more than two dozen Indiana underage students have lost their lives to alcohol poisoning since 2004, and these deaths could have been prevented if bystanders or friends chose to call for medical help.
Spreading the word about the law is crucial in order for it to start helping Hoosier students. Nicole Nierste, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said getting in trouble would be a huge reason for students not to make that critical call.
“Freshmen don’t really know and are afraid they’ll get in trouble,” Nierste said. “It’s scary for them as far as consequences, like, are they going to have to drop out of school? Are they going to have to tell their parents?”
Chloé Ghattas, a sophomore in the School of Management, said the immunity for the person or group of people who decided to call should definitely help in these situations – even if those friends knew the intoxicated person might get in trouble.
“I would be kind of torn but at the end of the day, it’s like, their life is at stake,” Ghattas said. “They should take full responsibility for themselves if I’m going to take full responsibility for their life, so I feel like that’s kind of a fair trade.”
Ghattas added that she plans to tell her friends about the law in order to avoid any kind of potential tragedy.
Junior Bobby Egan, also in the School of Management, attended Zoeller and Merritt’s press conference as he’s a member of Purdue Student Government.
“I think it really helps to have awareness like this on campus,” Egan said. “PSG is trying to take an active role in advertising this law, especially in the Greek community and other places there’s been concern about how exactly the law works.”
He said Merritt spoke of a student who died of alcohol poisoning – a stark example of the Lifeline Law’s importance.
“Any student would rather deal with the law than be in the ground,” Egan said.
The Student Wellness Office, PSG, the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities and other groups on campus have put out a video called “Make the Call,” which talks about the law, how to get help and the importance of getting help. It is available to watch at www.purdue.edu/makethecall.