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Michigan lawmakers consider Good Samaritan prescription drug bill

Because it is a crime to possess controlled substances, even prescription drugs in some cases, when someone overdoses it is not uncommon for him or her not to receive needed medical attention. The sad fact is that friends may fear getting arrested if they call 911.

That is what happened to a Michigan teenager who died after overdosing on methadone at a New Year’s Eve party last year. Though he asked for help, nobody else at the party was willing to call for paramedics, so he died. He was 16.

Inspired in part by the boy’s death, lawmakers in the state House have crafted a bill that would give youthful witnesses to a drug overdose the ability to seek medical assistance without risking arrest. The bill would create a Good Samaritan exemption for people under 21 who ask for medical attention for themselves or others for a suspected overdose. The exemption would protect teens and young adults from charges of illegally possessing prescription drugs “in an amount sufficient only for personal use,” according to

Testifying about the bill before the House Criminal Justice Committee recently, the 16-year-old’s mother tearfully acknowledged that her son made a mistake taking the methadone. But teenagers sometimes make mistakes, she said, and they deserve a second chance.

The committee has not yet voted on the Good Samaritan bill, but is expected to discuss it again later.

Prescription drug addiction is a big problem in the U.S., with 44 people dying from overdoses each day. Many critics say that the law should focus on treating addiction, instead of putting addicts behind bars.

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