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Emerson passes medical amnesty

Emerson College adopted a medical amnesty policy last week, joining about 90 colleges nationwide, including Harvard University, Northeastern University and University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Also known as a good Samaritan policy, medical amnesty aims to protect students that are discovered under the influence of alcohol or drugs during a medical emergency. Critics claim the adoption of such a procedure will encourage more underage students to abuse alcohol and drugs.

‘ ‘The overarching priority of Emerson College with respect to alcohol and other drugs is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students,’ Emerson Dean of Students Ronald Ludman said in an email to the Emerson community last Wednesday. ‘The College is committed to providing guidance so that students can learn to develop a responsible approach.’

Students who now seek medical assistance for themselves or another person will not be disciplined in most cases because such actions demonstrate ‘good judgment,’ according to Emerson’s policy.

The adoption of medical amnesty has been well received by the Emerson student community, students said.

‘I think it’s almost universally agreed the amnesty policy is a good thing,’ Emerson junior Brent Baughman said. ‘Most students everywhere support the idea as a simple way to encourage safety. The truth is our generation has such a screwy relationship with alcohol.’

Harvard, Northeastern and UMass-Amherst have similar policies. UMass-Amherst spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said although discipline is important toward combating excessive drinking at universities, it might deter students from making their health and safety their ‘first consideration.’

‘People who take it upon themselves to help those that are ill should not be punished,’ Blaguszewski said. ‘We’re saying in the policy that helping a sick student can mitigate potential judicial consequences, and we will take into account the specifics.’

BU does not have medical amnesty, but getting such a policy passed is the main priority of the Student Union, Union President Matt Seidel said. Last semester, the Union collected more than 3,000 signatures from students in support of a medical amnesty policy.

‘I really think this change at Emerson shows that BU getting such a policy is inevitable,’ Seidel. ‘Over 90 schools have it, showing it’s a big trend because it’s a fundamental health issue.’

BU could only benefit from amnesty, BU students said.

‘I think every school should have it,’ Shelbourne said. ‘You don’t lose anything by having it. You either save a life or you don’t.’

Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences junior Jennifer McMahon said even with or without medical amnesty, some alcohol and drug abuse would happen.

‘This policy sounds like a really good idea. I don’t think people will abuse it,’ McMahon said. ‘They would drink a certain amount, regardless of the policy,’

College of Communication freshman Zachary Taylor said medical amnesty would not promote careless student behavior.

‘When they [students] get into serious accidents, it wasn’t on purpose,’ Taylor said. ‘It’s not like if we get this policy, students will drink until they puke because they are now protected from getting in trouble.’

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