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    Has underage drinking on college campuses gotten to a point of no return? Some may say this question has validity, due to the implementation of new practices regarding drinking and drug consumption in a collegiate environment. “Call 911 Good Samaritan Policies”, or more concisely known as “Medical Amnesty” policies have been enacted all over the country in an attempt to decrease the life-threatening effects of drug and alcohol usage. With an increasing amount of fatal incidents resulting from these substances, lawmakers and government officials have passed legislation to allow for young adults in compromising situations to receive assistance when in dire need, without the fear of legal penalty. With the focus being mainly on college students, there are multiple outlooks on the extent of these procedures and their effectiveness. Research of this growing social issue allows for the assessment of information surrounding medical amnesty, and the ability to draw relevant inferences from the data presented.

    To illustrate, the article asserts “A survey of 355 opiate users found that once they became aware of [active] Good Samaritan law, 88% indicated that they were likely to call 911 during future overdoses”. Chapter nine of Wheelan’s book Naked Statistics warns that reader that “statistics cannot prove anything with certainty”. This holds true when interpreting the aforementioned statistic; even though it may seem that a vast majority of users would call the authorities, this is not necessarily guaranteed. Best may have deemed this descriptive statistic also as a “bad statistic”, which he determined can “lead us to make poor policy decisions”. Taking this statistic into consideration, it can be construed in a way that might urge policymakers to enact “Medical Amnesty” in more states due to the potential increase in calls to the police in situations dealing with illegal drugs. This statistic takes advantage of the public’s innumeracy, described in Chapter one of Best’s novel Damned Lies and Statistics as “an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of numbers and chance”. Best highlights that big numbers blend together, with no real difference amongst other big numbers. Upon reading the statistic, the reader can easily be captivated by “355 users” and “88%” without realizing the magnitude of the data and its derivation. Given the nearly 400 users, the statistic frames the data around those who are partial to opiates. This sample does not account for other drugs that are typically present on college campuses such as marijuana, ecstasy, etc. This statistic shows evidence of a clear inclination to one specific drug category, which is not an accurate enough depiction of use in a collegiate setting. As Wheelan states in Chapter 7 of his novel, “a bigger sample will not make up for errors in its composition, or “bias”, and a “large, biased sample is arguably worse than a small, biased sample because it will give a false sense of confidence regarding the results. Even though the statistic highlights a mass sampling of individuals, the enormity of people sampled may not indicate results that are inclusive of the necessary information in terms of drug use in college.

    Naturally, this article presents information considering the rate at which individuals attempt to receive assistance for overdoses, not specifying either alcohol or drug use. The article claims “when someone in America overdoses, a call for help occurs less than 50% of the time”. This statistic could arouse confusion for the reader, causing a questioning of its accuracy. Best would most likely deem this to be a “mutant statistic” that has endured “number laundering”. More specifically, this type of mutant statistic could be seen as a transformation, in Best’s opinion. Best expresses that it “may be especially easy to transform estimates and guesses because the language of guessing is often vague”. Present in the statistic’s wording, terms such as “someone” and “occurs less than” can signal to the reader that this statistic may not be entirely factual or credible. Best points out that “sometimes transformations are inadvertent; they reflect nothing more than sloppy, imprecise language”. The way the article structures the statistic does a lackluster job of confirming the statistic’s plausibility. The phrase “Less than 50% of the time” can be interpreted loosely by the reader seeing as the statistic does not include concrete constraints for the calls of help recorded. Realistically, the latter part of this statistic can mean anywhere from 0 to 49% in the reader’s mind, a dangerous inference ultimately left for the audience to deduce. This shocking statistic may elicit some reaction from the reader who may then be more likely to support “medical amnesty” policy, more so than before. Best explains this reasoning by elaborating “transformations often “improve” a claim by making it more dramatic”. A statistic with 50% as a point of reference is arguably conceivably dramatic, and done to possibly coerce the reader into taking action about the topic in question. Although Best may determine this statistic to be “mutant”, his novel also mentions this statistic may be comprehended as “lone”, single number presented in isolation. This statistic has no following information that could be used for comparison, therefore making it that much more difficult to argue its authenticity.

    As a final point, the article takes a stance on how Good Samaritan policies should be “understood”, so to speak. To explain, the article maintains “Good Samaritan Policies shouldn’t be viewed as “get out of jail free cards” or rewards for binge drinking”. This claim is basis for a debate on the foundations of “Medical Amnesty”. A bold statement such as this highlights the article’s clear attempt to sway the reader to support the policies being put into place on campuses. By doing so, the article ultimately ignores the repercussions of the widespread acceptance and utilization of Medical Amnesty policies. The article may claim that medical amnesty policy gives students the choice to make responsible choices in tumultuous party-related situations, but this alone does not serve as a deterrent for those with opposing viewpoints. Although most students may seem to be on board with the policy, there are most likely individuals who disagree with medical amnesty. Medical amnesty can be seen as immunity for minors who are willingly and consciously consuming substances illegally, which may be unsettling to those with concerns. The active use of medical amnesty protocols can easily allow the apprehensive to notice how these substances could be abused recklessly. Some may go as far as saying that government officials are turning a blind eye to the issue of teen alcohol and drug consumption by offering medical and legal refuge to those critically hindered due to excessive intake. The article presses the urgency of medical amnesty by stating that it’s use could be the difference between life and death, but that does not ensure that all individuals will have like opinions in reference to this controversial issue.

    All in all, as Good Samaritan policies are being integrated into college campus procedures, it is important to take a close look at what the policy entails. Looking at the statistical data and the notions of specific authors can aid the reader in formulating an individual belief on medical amnesty and its greater meaning. Without pinpointing specific claims made about medical amnesty and the research to back up this information, the social problem of medical amnesty may not have as much prevalence or receive as much attention from the general public. Medical amnesty continues to remain a current topic of discussion, eliciting responses from not only students and researchers, but from broader audiences as well.

    WORKS CITED "Call 911 Good Samaritan Policies." Students for Sensible Drug Policy. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2013. <http://ssdp.org/campaigns/call-911-good-samaritan-policies/>. LINK TO WEBSITE: http://ssdp.org/campaigns/call-911-good-samaritan-policies/

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Leah Brynaert is Health Care Fellow & Correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student in Lyman Briggs College at MSU.