If so inKlined: The importance of medical amnesty

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A few weeks ago, I heard from a friend about an incident at another liberal arts college not too far away. At this school, a student who was tripping on LSD started having a seizure. Another student called security, and as a result, her seizing friend was transported to the hospital and did not suffer significant physical harm. However, the room of the friend who called security was searched and, after more drugs were found, she was permanently expelled from the school.

This situation and its result made me feel incredibly uneasy. As I often do, I thought about what I would do if something like this happened to me. If a friend of mine seemed to be in physical danger, I would forget all worries about getting myself into trouble and do anything I could to help them. If I acted in order to save my friend from getting hurt or even dying, I couldn’t get penalized, right? Would my college really punish me for doing the right thing?

In the petition created by the expelled student on change.org, the writer states that her friend could have died if she had abandoned them and run off to dispose of her drugs. She also says that because medical amnesty (immunity for those who report drug and alcohol related emergencies) is a law in Minnesota, neither she nor her friends are in trouble with the police, but her college expelled her anyway. This fact is incredibly unsettling. If the state has a law forbidding a person from punishment in this situation, why would the school be allowed to, or feel the need to, penalize someone who reports this type of emergency?

As a student just beginning my college career, I know that everyone around me will be experimenting with various mind-altering substances. I don’t have an issue with this fact, but this precedent of getting into trouble while trying to save a friend’s life scares me. I don’t intend to ever put myself in a state where my life is at stake, but if it ever happens, I would like to think my friends wouldn’t be scared to call for help. If the well-known consequence of getting security involved during a medical emergency is expulsion, students will obviously be less eager to help and will more likely run away from the situation to avoid getting in trouble.

What this fellow liberal arts school seems to forget is that the health of their students should always come first. Reputation is very important for colleges, even more so for top-tier liberal arts schools, but what kind of reputation will this incident help the school to have? Sure, people will think that the administration does not tolerate drug usage and wants to strictly abide by the laws, but now this school will also be known as the place where, if you’re not safe with your drug use, you could very well be seriously harmed because no one will want to help you. How is keeping up the image of a clean campus more important than the physical health of students?

Macalester’s drug and alcohol policies clearly outline medical amnesty, unlike those of our fellow Minnesota school where this incident occurred. Thankfully, we can feel safe while helping out a friend in danger. But as Macalester students, we shouldn’t be solely focused on our rules here. We need to look at other colleges in our area and around the country. Shouldn’t students everywhere have the same rights that we do when it comes to medical amnesty?

I hope that during the next four years, other schools will adopt a clear medical amnesty rule. Students absolutely should not be penalized for trying to save someone else’s life, and as a community we have the power to change the stigma surrounding drug-related medical emergencies.