VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - For many college students, drinking is as much a part of the college experience as studying for classes or relaxing on the university lawn with friends.
If a group of underage students decides to drink and one drinks a little too much and ends up needing medical assistance, the other underage students may not want to call for help right away for fear of getting busted for drinking underage.
But the medical amnesty law, which went into effect in Georgia in July 2014, prevents them from facing any university sanctions since they are calling to get help. "I thought under any circumstances, if somebody is underage and drinking and law enforcement is around, I would pretty much think that they would be done," said VSU sophomore Kristopher Milon.
VSU senior Rosie Delgado also didn't know about the law. "After just hearing about it now, I think it makes sense," said Delgado.
But this scenario actually happened. In January, 19 year old UGA student Michael McClary was drinking with friends but when they found him passed out in a car they didn't call police right away for fear of getting busted. Last week, it was announced that McClary died from alcohol poisoning.
Like Milon and Delgado, they weren't aware of the law. Both Milon and Delgado said they're glad to find out about the law. "If I know that my friends underage drink," said Milon, "I would hope that under any circumstances they could get help."
Delgado said becoming more students becoming aware about the law will hopefully have long term benefits. "Being more aware about it makes it something we can practice more."
The law also provides amnesty for the person for whom help is being called, but both Milon and Delgado said they don't think that will necessarily lead to an increase in underage drinking. Said Milon, "I don't think that would be the case at all." Said Delgado, "I can definitely understand that, but I don't think that would be the overall outcome."
The VSU Medical Amnesty Guideline is offered to students who become aware of a medical emergency involving suspected alcohol poisoning or drug overdose and seek emergency assistance on the victim's behalf. The student making the notification of a suspected medical emergency and the victim will be exempt from sanctioning through the Student Conduct Office for violations of the Student Code of Conduct's Substance Abuse Policy as referenced in the Student Handbook. The purpose of this guideline is to send a clear message to students that their health and safety is of primary importance and the consideration of their welfare and that of others should not be hindered for fear of sanctions. Prosecution of individuals under local, state, or federal laws would be at the discretion of appropriate officials of the applicable jurisdiction."