In a recent push to improve campus safety, one group of students is working to expand the University of Michigan’s current medical amnesty policy to cover students seeking medical assistance in instances involving drug use as well as alcohol. Medical amnesty laws provide legal protection to individuals who seek medical attention in life-threatening situations where they would otherwise face prosecution. There is wide acceptance of these laws as they pertain to alcohol use. Expanding these policies to also cover illicit drug use, however, has faced an uphill battle. Many other states and universities have implemented all-inclusive medical amnesty policies.
Currently, medical amnesty, as outlined in several university sources, applies only to the use of alcohol. According to the University of Michigan Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and in accordance with Michigan law, exemptions from persecution apply to, “A minor who voluntarily accesses a health facility or agency for treatment or observation after consuming alcohol; Any minor who accompanied a minor who voluntarily accesses a health facility or agency for treatment or observation after consuming alcohol; and Any minor who initiated contact with law enforcement or emergency medical services personnel for the purpose of obtaining medical assistance in connection with their own personal consumption of alcohol or consumption by others.”
The students who are working on the reform of this policy argue that these protections are not enough. Arian Kambakhsh, who is heading the campaign, noted that, “expanding our medical amnesty policy is imperative for the future of campus safety,” and cited statistics that show that, “the number of drug-related deaths in the state of Michigan has more than tripled since 1999.” A nationwide study by the University of Michigan shows that nearly 40% of college students have used drugs. Clearly, campuses are not immune to drug use and Ann Arbor, which annually plays host to Hash Bash, is no exception.
Expanding medical amnesty protection to include drug use, rather than limiting its protections to alcohol, is thought to ultimately save lives by encouraging students who might be hesitant to call 911 to seek help for those in need. As Mr. Kambakhsh explains, “Current university policy discourages students from calling for help in life-threatening situations, forcing them to choose between the life of a friend and potential jail time.”
The student campaigners have created an online petition through Central Student Government, have made presentations to many campus organizations, and have drafted several proposals. They have also planned further activity. While the process of changing this policy is not easy, and has been months in the making, so far the campaigners have found support on campus; “Everyone we have reached out to has been receptive to our cause so far,” says Mr. Kambakhsh.