A new drinking law: Wisconsin good samaritans

Now: Get ready with friends. Pregame. Go out. Real game. Get into a fight. Go too hard. Start throwing up. Do not put down the vodka. Cling to it. Throw up more. Don’t stop until crying too much in the bathroom and passing out and friends freaking out and them debating to call somebody to help but not wanting to get in trouble. Not calling anyone.

Last year the state of Wisconsin started the motions to pass Good Samaritan bills 256 and 222, introduced to the Wisconsin State Legislature by Senator Fred Risser, D-Madison, which would make those involved in any way with underage drinking medical emergencies immune from police charges. Repeat all of the bit before this, but now friends call the hospital and get help immediately. The bill would even ban UW Madison schools from implementing any of their own punishments on their students.

The immediate ramifications are clear: More immediate medical attention goes to more underage drinkers who are in serious need of quick help. The people who helped them get it won’t be punished for their admirable actions. Because let’s face it, even for those students who aren’t drinking, it can be scary to take the risk and call the hospital and admit to being around that or risk being investigated for connections. These new laws will be helpful in that respect.

Immediate medical attention is important, but what about getting help later? Students who drink themselves into a state where they have to get their stomachs pumped or get carried off in an ambulance probably need to meet with a counselor and definitely need to figure something out about their limits. Under this new law, schools will not even be informed when students get in serious trouble with their drinking, which will keep them from being able to reach out in any way. Unless the underage drinkers look out for themselves to try to find help and recognize their own issues, they won’t get any.

Punishing students for underage drinking is probably a bad idea; we all know that it doesn’t work and that it won’t stop the large majority of students from drinking.

Allowing students to get help without worrying about the legal implications or the effect on their record is a really big step in the right direction, even if there are some major concerns from law enforcement and concerned parents — not just the lack of help after the event, but what does a lack of punishment mean for society? If you drink too much, do you get off more than those who are responsible? Etc, etc. Getting those who are in serious danger the help they need is more important, even if it means bending the laws a little bit.

But can we feel comfortable with just letting these students go after their hospital visits? Without making sure that they will try to get better or be forced to get better? Maybe a better alternative to punishment with a fine and being put in front of a judge would be for hospitals to foreword students’ information to their schools’ counselor services instead of the Deans’ offices. Requiring help as opposed to just completely letting students go might be a more appropriate and helpful step away from punishment.