Georgetown officially added the Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan Policy to the Code of Student Conduct on Feb. 4, which protects anyone in need of medical attention because of the consumption of alcohol or drugs, and their caller.
The policy, added as Appendix E because of nuances and specific guidelines, stipulates that students seeking medical attention for an alcohol- or drug-related emergency for themselves or other individuals will not be subject to consequences of violating the alcohol or drug policies already included in the Code of Student Conduct.
“This keeps students from having to choose between getting themselves or their friends emergency medical care that they need versus worrying about getting themselves or their friends in trouble,” Judy Johnson, director of the Office of Student Conduct, said.
Students will still be liable for other violations of the code of conduct that do not pertain to alcohol- or drug-related polices. The policy also does not protect underage students who may be at the scene and are consuming alcohol or drugs, but who are not seeking medical help for themselves or others.
“It is not amnesty for the entire scene. It is amnesty for the situation at hand,” Student Advocacy Office co-Director Michelle Mohr (COL ’15) said. “If the [Department of Public Safety] arrives on scene and six students are holding beer cans, they can still be written up.”
Under the revised policy, the responding medical or law enforcement officials will first make sure that the individuals in danger receive appropriate medical attention before any infraction documentation takes place. A report of the incident and the surrounding social event will be given to the Office of Student Conduct, where officials will determine if the situation applies to the Medical Amnesty Policy. The policy changes also determine that the student that experienced the medical emergency will have a meeting with a community director to discuss the situation.
“Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Services is very excited and proud of the official addition of the Medical Amnesty Policy,” GERMS Director of Public Relations Kate McClellan (COL ’14) said. “We believe that such a policy will eliminate significant hesitations patients and their friends might have felt when deciding whether or not to seek emergency care from GERMS or D.C. Fire and EMS. This is a great step forward in improving access to emergency treatment, care and transport.”
Overall, the policy does not represent significant change, as Georgetown has honored medical amnesty in some form for many years.
“This policy is not much different from what the university has been doing in practice. This was all about putting things into writing. With GERMS, we have a good relationship with the student body and we are well respected,” GERMS Acting Crew Chief Brian Monahan (COL ’15), who advocated for the policy, said. “I think that students know that they can call us even if they are not sure [if they might get in trouble]. I hope it will convince people to call, but I don’t see there being a major change in call volume.”
According to Mohr, prior to its enactment, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and legal counsel reviewed the proposal to ensure compliance with the law, as with the new alcohol amnesty policy in cases of sexual assault.
“This type of policy is a national standard and a lot of schools have policies like this. As a leading institution, it is really important that Georgetown follows that. If that is our policy, it is important then that that is written,” Mohr said. “There is no reason for us to have a policy that was not written in our code. Especially if Georgetown is going to hold its students to a code of conduct, all policies need to be included.”
Mohr and Monahan both highlighted the importance of student body awareness of the official policy so that they are aware of their rights in a medical emergency.
“The hope is that once the students see the policy in writing, they will believe it and act on it,” Mohr said.
Monahan agreed that the policy change will result in positive student behavioral change in dangerous drug- and alcohol-related situations.
“As an EMT, I would rather have someone that I walk onto a scene to that is fine and that they refuse to go to the hospital than have someone who is not fine and that we have to take more drastic measures,” Monahan said.