Central Student Government seeks to implement medical amnesty program

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 9, 2012

On college campuses nationwide, a night out could include excessive consumption of alcohol at levels that can be life threatening. For many students, the fear of receiving a Minor in Possession of alcohol charge can deter them from calling for medical aid when an over-intoxicated friend is in need of assistance.

To combat the potential issue at the University, members of the Central Student Government — formerly known as the Michigan Student Assembly — are working on a proposal to implement medical amnesty at the University, a policy that would protect students from receiving an MIP if they call for alcohol-related medical attention for another person while also under the influence.

CSG President DeAndree Watson said the concept of medical amnesty encourages students to make responsible decisions by giving them incentive to request help rather than punishing them.

Watson said having medical amnesty on campus “would be a huge accomplishment,” adding that in cases of over-intoxication, failure to call for medical attention can have dire consequences.

“(Medical amnesty is) something we all plan to push as hard as we can and make sure it happens before the end of the year,” Watson said.

LSA junior Aditya Sathi, vice speaker of the CSG assembly, said medical amnesty is spreading to college campuses across the country due to its potential to save the lives of endangered students.

“Excessive drinking is a problem at a majority of universities throughout the country,” Sathi said. “medical amnesty is an opportunity to ... save students’ lives.”

Sathi said he will introduce a resolution in support of a medical amnesty program during the CSG meeting next week. The student government is then scheduled to vote on the implementation of the program on Jan. 24.

Though the resolution has yet to be written, Sathi said it will include minor repercussions for underage drinkers, such as an online class about alcohol safety or a mandatory meeting with the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

“Students can live with taking a class or seeing a counselor, but an MIP is monumentally worse,” Sathi said.

If the resolution passes, Sathi said he and other members of CSG will approach University administrators and Ann Arbor community members about officially launching medical amnesty.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said issuing an MIP is secondary to safety.

“Each of the University Police officers are concerned with the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” she said. “That’s always the primary concern and rises above all else — making sure that people are safe either from themselves or others.”

Brown added that after following safety precautions, any action made by officers is “enforcing state law.”

LSA junior Sean Walser, chair of CSG’s external relations commission, said the “shadow of doubt” of potentially receiving an MIP can prevent students from making responsible decisions.

“Whether or not you actually get issued an MIP, the fact that you could (get issued an MIP) is what really scares a lot of students from making the call,” he said.

Most of medical amnesty's support stems from a study of the medical amnesty program at Cornell University, which found that implementation of the program led to an increase in calls for medical attention in alcohol-related incidents.

Purdue University launched Purdue CARES, a manifestation of the concept of medical amnesty, according to a Sept. 13 Purdue University press release. Schools such as Ohio State University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Texas-Austin have also adopted programs based on the idea of medical amnesty.

LSA junior Jacob Sklar said Medical Amnesty could benefit fraternities, which may experience consequences beyond an MIP if incidents of underage alcohol consumption are discovered on chapter property.

“(They would) rather kick someone out than call the police,” Sklar said.

He added that despite the legal repercussions, most students would call for medical attention for a friend regardless of the risk of receiving an MIP.

Brown echoed Sklar’s sentiments and said she trusts that students are making the responsible decision to aid friends in need of medical attention.

“I would certainly like to think that our students are choosing the healthy choice over (a fine),” Brown said. “If they already think that this person needs medical help, one would think that nothing else would stand in the way of that.”

Business junior Trevor Grieb said he believes medical amnesty would be beneficial to students and would lead to an increase in calls regarding alcohol-related incidents.

While Grieb said it may appear as if medical amnesty lessens the consequences of underage drinking, he added “the benefits far outweigh the costs.”