Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan Policies

Throughout the United States, colleges, universities, local communities and some states are adopting laws and policies that are designed to remove barriers for students who need to seek medical attention for impaired friends or for themselves in alcohol or drug related emergencies. Under "Medical Amnesty" and/or "Good Samaritan" policies, students are potentially exempted from punitive action if they call for medical assistance, which can help save lives by eliminating anxiety about potential penalties for consuming alcohol illegally.

The goal is to prevent senseless death as a result of inaction. The Gordie Center believes medical amnesty policies can be an important component of an environmental approach.

We have provided links to a few "Sample Policies," which may be accessed through the link above-right.

The Gordie Center conducted a Medical Amnesty Survey in 2007 to determine the extent of campus policies nationwide and elements of successful implementation.   Access the full study results.

NOTE: While we applaud the efforts of the above institutions to keep their students safe, The Gordie Center cannot individually attest to the success of these policies. They are provided here simply as a reference. Any policy adopted by a university or college needs to be developed in accordance with state law and in consultation with legal counsel.

The Facts

Q: What is Medical Amnesty?

A: Exemption from punishment for an intoxicated or impaired underage student if medical assistance is called to help him or her in an emergency situation. Instead of a harsher penalty for underage drinking or drug use, a student usually receives some sort of counseling by a professional following an incident to help identify if the student has a more serious alcohol or drug problem and to provide the student with suggestions on how to stay safe in the future.

Q: What is a Good Samaritan policy?

A: Exemption from punishment for an intoxicated or impaired underage student who calls for emergency assistance for another student who is dangerously intoxicated. Although not necessarily in danger of alcohol poisoning him or herself, those who intervene for a dangerously intoxicated student may also be subject to a psychological evaluation for drug and/or alcohol use following an incident.  Many campuses incorporate Good Samaritan policies under a broader medical amnesty policy.

Q: Who can implement these policies?

A: Colleges and universities, local communities, as well as state governments and the federal government. To date, 17 states have successfull passed Medical Amnesty or Good Samaritan laws. There is currently no federal legislation that has been introduced to this effect.

Q: Do Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan policies work?

A: A 2006 study conducted at Cornell University (Lewis & Marchell) revealed that one such medical amnesty policy along with a significant media campaign dramatically increased the number of alcohol-related calls for assistance to emergency services, and that psycho-educational interventions following those calls more than doubled over a two-year period from 22% to 52%. Access a PDF of the study.

Q: I would like to help bring a Medical Amnesty law to my home state.  Is there someone who can help me figure out where to start?

A: YES!!  The Medical Amnesty Initiative is a non profit organization advocating for the introduction and passage of Medical Amnesty legislation throughout the United States. They have helped guide many young people through the process of passing Medical Amnesy laws by connecting them with their state legislators!  Learn more about this great resource.