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Overdose deaths

Illinois law encourages teens to let their own friends die from alcohol or drugs rather than call for help

Wednesday, August 07, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: overdose deaths, teenagers, drugs and alcohol

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(NaturalNews) When the effect of a law is to discourage citizens from doing the right thing, that law should be changed or, better yet, repealed altogether.

Such is the case with an Illinois statute that essentially encourages teens who are trying to help out friends who are dangerously drunk and close to alcohol poisoning to let them die.

According to CBS Chicago:

Fifteen-year-old Michael thought he was doing the right thing in April of 2012 when he decided to call the police at a house party in order to save his friend's life, after his friend suffered alcohol poisoning.

"He [the friend] wouldn't wake up to anything that we were doing, he wasn't responsive," the teen told CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli. His friend needed to be flown to Loyola University Medical Center, where he would stay for two days following the incident.

'I could deal with me being in trouble, but...'

Michael's 16-year-old friend, who wanted to remain anonymous for the CBS report, lapsed into an alcohol-induced coma. Doctors later found he had an alcohol content of .33 after he downed nearly an entire fifth of vodka.

"They [doctors] had never seen such a high blood alcohol content in someone before," Michael said.

But the hardest part of that night for Michael's friend wasn't the fact that he nearly died from alcohol overdose. No, it was what he discovered had happened to Michael and his friends after they saved his life.

"I could deal with me being in trouble, but the fact that they got in trouble wasn't really fair," said the anonymous friend. Per CBS Chicago:

Instead of being applauded for his efforts, Michael was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by a suburban police department after registering a .007 B.A.C. from a half-shot of vodka he had taken two hours earlier.

Enter bad policy here.

"I was just in complete shock. I thought it was a joke to be honest," Michael said. He and two others had stayed with their drunken friend after everyone else at the party left out of fear of the police.

So, though he prevented a death, he says now that the Dupage County State Attorney's office has informed him that had his friend actually died from alcohol poisoning, he could have been charged with manslaughter. Talk about a miscarriage of justice.

Such lunacy may become the exception rather than the rule, however. The Illinois General Assembly passed the 911 Good Samaritan Overdose bill in February, which says, "a person who, in good faith, seeks or obtains emergency medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose shall not be charged or prosecuted for Class 4 felony possession of a controlled, counterfeit, or look-alike substance."

Right now, as the law stands in Illinois, anyone who is caught with up to three grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine has amnesty from the police; a teen with alcohol, however, doesn't have any. It's more likely Michael would have been released without cause by the police if he had only been caught with heroin in his pocket rather than a miniscule amount of alcohol.

"The system's completely flawed," he said in what could be the biggest understatement of the year. "Most kids are drinking and if everyone's gonna run and the cops are coming it's a serious situation and no one's ever going to get help if they need it."

He's right, of course. Punishing someone for helping out a fellow human being who is circling the drain is the epitome of insanity.

Could a better judgment call have been made?

After learning what they have learned about this incident, Michael and his friends want to see the current law amended to include small amounts of alcohol, so that he and others won't be charged with a crime for simply doing the right thing.

Chicago Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein was a chief sponsor of the drugs bill. He said he doesn't support underage drinking but he's willing to look into the possibility of making a change to the law after hearing Michael's story.

"You've brought it to my attention. I think it's something we should address," Silverstein said. "We try to save lives, that's what we do."

But Silverstein also said that police were right to arrest the teens in this situation, under current state law.

Perhaps, by the letter of the law. But cops make judgment calls all the time; was this the right judgment?





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