Medical Amnesty Bill Passes Through Judiciary Committee

Medical amnesty gives people the opportunity to bring underage people with alcohol poisoning to the hospital without being legally punished

Esti Brady, Opinion Editor

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The act of consuming alcohol can be dangerous at any age, but when this act is illegal and must be kept under wraps, the possibilities of things going awry skyrocket.

“Even though high school students know they’re not supposed to drink, they still do. And being at a younger age, they’re much less responsible while doing it,” Grace Murphy ‘20 said.

A bill that would allow people under the age of 21 to receive medical attention for alcohol overdoses—without any need for fear of legal action taken against them or who they’re with—currently sits in the Iowa state capitol. It’s been approved by committees in both the Senate and the House but is listed as “unfinished business,” meaning it may not reach the floor for a vote by the end of this session. Hira Mustafa, the president of the University of Iowa Student Government, went to Des Moines in early April to advocate for this bill.

“This really is a priority, in addition to state appropriations, for our education in the state of Iowa and needs to be addressed,” Mustafa said. “I do think that it would be heavily supported in both the House and the Senate if it gets to the floor.”

Almost all legislators seemed familiar with the bill in April, Mustafa explained, because this isn’t the first time it’s been introduced.

“We’re trying to keep this bill specific to alcohol because last year someone added drug usage and it tanked the bill,” Mustafa said.

If this bill is passed, Iowa would join the over 30 states in the US that already have medical amnesty laws. Some colleges have also individually made it their policy to legally protect their students seeking medical help for alcohol overdoses. Even though this issue is seen primarily as affecting college students, there are countless stories of high school students needing the same help.

“I’ve heard about multiple times where someone drinks too much and no one wants to take them to the hospital because they’re scared of getting in trouble or something, so they just leave them alone for hours until they finally call their parents,” Diego Paciotto-Biggers ‘20 said. “Also, it’s not like having protection from legal action will make more people want to get drunk or anything. It’ll just make those who do safer.”

Although medical amnesty bills have been shown to decrease rates of death and injury due to alcohol poisoning in other states, there’s no guarantee that Iowa will take this bill up for a vote because of their packed agenda.

“We’re hopeful that we can get something done this year because if it doesn’t, then next year it will have to go through committees again,” Mustafa said. “We’ve been working on this bill for years now and it feels as if every year not quite enough people call in to let their representative know that this is a priority.”