Updated: October 26, 2013 11:02PM
ELKHART — The author of Indiana’s lifeline law, which encourages underage drinkers to seek medical help for others who are dangerously intoxicated, says after visiting college campuses he wants to expand it to also give them immunity under other circumstances.
State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, told The Elkhart Truth he will introduce the expanded law in the 2014 General Assembly, calling it “a common-sense change.” The original law passed last year with help from student leaders at Indiana’s universities.
“The spirit of this law is that kids make mistakes, and you need to help one another and be good Samaritans,” he said. “This (change) ... just says, if someone is needing medical attention, call 911. And if you’ve had alcohol, you have immunity.”
He said the change is based on feedback he’s received while visiting college campuses with Attorney General Greg Zoeller to let students know about the law. He said some students were concerned that they would get in trouble for calling for help for a friend who had used drugs or if they were unsure why someone they were with needed help.
Zoeller also supports broadening the law.
“The overriding input I get is that kids aren’t doctors, and how do they know if (the friend’s medical problem) isn’t drugs, or maybe the person hit their head or something,” Merritt said. “What I’m going to propose is that rather than being focused on alcohol, we are going to broaden the law and say that ... if the friend is not responsive, make the call.”
The law requires the caller to cooperate with authorities and remain on the scene until police or emergency medical personnel arrive. Merritt said that immunity for the caller is basically a trade for his or her knowledge of the situation.