Medical Amnesty for All
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 01:02
Dialing the number for Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service is never a decision taken lightly. However, too much focus on matters other than a person’s safety can make such deliberation more dangerous than it is worth.
While the well-being of those in need should always be the primary concern during a medical emergency, the ramifications of dialing GERMS or 911 should be an afterthought, regardless of context. Yet the current consequences for alcohol- or drug-related incidents involving GERMS are foggy at best. Students treated by GERMS generally receive a letter from a member of their residential-life staff recommending a conversation between the patient and the community director. Although this consequence is minor, many students are simply unaware of its existence — or the lack of worse punishments — which can lead to delayed emergency calls, costing valuable time in getting GERMS to the scene of an emergency.
According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol-related incidents are a leading cause of injury and death among college students, accounting for 1,825 deaths and hundreds of thousands more injuries each year. Neither GERMS nor any EMT service can effectively do its job if Georgetown students are afraid to pick up the phone. For this reason, the medical amnesty policy for alcohol and drug use currently proposed by members of GERMS should be instituted.
In practice, medical amnesty is often granted to underage students treated for binge drinking. However, it is necessary for the university to codify this policy if students are to successfully take advantage of available resources when in a potentially life-threatening situation. If the proposal were to be rejected, then students deserve, at the very least, clarity in what disciplinary action will result from an encounter with GERMS.
Life-threatening encounters with alcohol are far too common on campus, but until they have been eliminated, the university should take all possible steps to protect students from this unfortunate reality.