Saturday, May 26, 2018

You can't prevent overdose deaths by scaring people into not calling 911

In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed life saving "Good Samaritan" legislation that would have let people call 911 when their friends overdose without being prosecuted. But some states are going even further, prosecuting survivors for murder if they shared drugs with an overdose victim, the New York Times reported this week:
As overdose deaths mount, prosecutors are increasingly treating them as homicide scenes and looking to hold someone criminally accountable. Using laws devised to go after drug dealers, they are charging friends, partners and siblings. The accused include young people who shared drugs at a party and a son who gave his mother heroin after her pain medication had been cut off. Many are fellow users, themselves struggling with addiction. 
Such cases are becoming more common even as the role of the criminal justice system in combating drug abuse has become hotly contested, and even as many prosecutors — including those who pursue overdose death cases — say they embrace the push to treat addiction as a public health crisis rather than a crime.
This is pointless and has no public safety value whatsoever. All it does is make it less likely overdose victims will receive life saving medical treatment during the critical moments when it could help them. The War on Drugs has been such a miserable failure: It not only doesn't achieve any of its public safety goals, it largely seems to worsen public health outcomes.

RELATED: This academic article examines the role of coroners and medical examiners in charging overdose deaths as murder.

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