Alors que d’autres juridictions ont commencé à mettre en œuvre des lois de bons samaritains, le Royaume-Uni accuse un certain retard dans sa mise en œuvre. Pour en savoir plus, en anglais, veuillez lire les informations ci-dessous.

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By Priya Thethi

While other jurisdictions have begun implementing Good Samaritan laws, allowing those at the scene of a drug overdose to contact emergency services without fear of police intervention, the UK is lagging woefully behind in their implementation.

At the launch event for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) UK on February 29, Rose Humphries spoke of how two of her son had suffered fatal heroin overdoses, attributing their needless deaths to punitive drug laws.

Speaking as part of think tank Transform’s campaign Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, Rose mentioned in particular how 13 years after the death of her younger son, Roland, she was still wondering whether the delay in calling the ambulance was because his friends were worried about getting in trouble with the police.

Medical amnesty, a concept which has yet to be enshrined in UK law, could have prevented this situation. Also known as a “Good Samaritan” policy, caller amnesty grants legal protection to people who give assistance to those who they “reasonably believe” to be in danger, and, in some cases, imposes a legal duty to assist. In the context of drug overdoses, it would provide reassurance to witnesses that they, and the person overdosing, would not be arrested after calling for help.

Under current UK law, this is not a guarantee. Callers in life-threatening overdose scenarios face the risk of the police attending their ambulance call out, and the fear of undergoing searches for drugs and arrests for possession. Penalties for possession of heroin, for example, can be up to seven years in prison.

In practice, this is rarely enforced: NHS guidelines for drug helpline operators advise that local ambulance protocol for overdose responses has in many areas been changed, such that the police no longer routinely attend unless there has been a death, a child is involved, or the ambulance crew perceive themselves to be at risk. In localities where police attendance is routine, callers can be reassured that police normally do not conduct searches for drugs.

The uncertainty, however, can be enough to deter someone making a potentially lifesaving call, and the guidelines highlight that many drug users delay calling for help as a result of their fear. For Roland, this may have been fatal.

Well-written medical amnesty laws can prevent this, and indeed they already exist elsewhere in the world, including in large parts of the United States, and are being explored as a possibility in Canada. In the former, notable developments have occurred on college campuses, with the intent of reducing judicial consequences both from drug use and underage drinking.

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