House Bill 2279 –– Oklahoma's Good Samaritan law –– authored by State Rep. Justin Wood, just passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate. Some local drug abuse rehabilitation programs, like Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, are excited about the bill's potential for saving lives.

SIDEBAR:

The bill can be found at ok.gov.

Oklahoma law

No trouble for being Good Samaritan

Note: This is part one of an in-depth look at what House Bill 2279 –– the Oklahoma Good Samaritan law –– means and how many working in drug abuse programs and the health care industry believe more lives in the community can be saved if it passes.

House Bill 2279 –– Oklahoma's Good Samaritan law –– authored by State Rep. Justin Wood, just passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate.

Some local drug abuse rehabilitation programs, like Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, are excited about the bill's potential for saving lives.

According to uslegal.com, a good samaritan in legal terms refers to someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis.

Usually, if a volunteer comes to the aid of an injured or ill person who is a stranger, the person giving the aid owes the stranger a duty of being reasonably careful. A person is not obligated by law to do first aid in most states, not unless it's part of a job description. However, some states will consider it an act of negligence though, if a person doesn't at least call for help.

Generally, where an unconscious victim cannot respond, a good samaritan can help them on the grounds of implied consent. However, if the victim is conscious and can respond, a person should ask their permission to help them first.

Some states offer immunity to good samaritans, but sometimes negligence could result in a claim of negligent care if the injuries or illness were made worse by the volunteer's negligence. Statutes typically don't exempt a good samaritan who acts in a willful and wanton or reckless manner in providing the care, advice, or assistance. Good samaritan laws often don't apply to a person rendering emergency care, advice, or assistance during the course or regular employment, such as services rendered by a health care provider to a patient in a health care facility.

Under the good samaritan laws which grant immunity, if the good samaritan makes an error while rendering emergency medical care, he or she cannot be held legally liable for damages in court. However, two conditions usually must be met; 1) the aid must be given at the scene of the emergency, and. 2) if the "volunteer" has other motives, such as the hope of being paid a fee or reward, then the law will not apply.

The following is an example of a state good samaritan statute:

For example, the following is the Hawaii Good Samaritan Act

"Any person who in good faith renders emergency care, without renumeration or expectation of renumeration, at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim of the accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from the persons acts or omission, except for such damages as may result from the persons gross negligence or wanton acts or omissions."

Carter Kimble, liaison with the Oklahoma Department of Health, said when he and Wood were talking in November, after hearing that Wood's father is in law enforcement, mentioned that Wood might be interested in a bill that was hoped to be getting some play this year.

“He immediately demanded he get to author the bill,” Kimble said.

The bill is not a novel concept, it's been around for awhile, Kimble said.

“A lot of states have it,” Kimble said. “This state has one for alcohol overdose –– so, if emergency services are called to a scene and a person is intoxicated or otherwise, whether they are minor or not, there's limited immunity available to them for alcohol instances.”

This just extends that to controlled substances, he said. It is not just opioids, but that's really what the aim was. In the statute that we're moving forward, it lists out the section of law that includes all the scheduled substances –– so anything from one through five that's included in the statutes is included in this law, he said.

“The primary thrust, was the prevalence now of the availability of naloxone –– an opioid antagonist. With that change in the law two or three years ago, the health department has taken on a statewide initiative to equip and train first responders and now carry naloxone kits with them,” Kimble said.

“Naloxone has about a four-hour window,” he said.

What this means is that if someone is doing or around illegal drugs or is under age, for example, and that person's friend overdoses, he or she can call for help without fear of getting into trouble.

“Immunity goes to the person contacting emergency services,” Kimble said.

The hope is that the immunity will encourage more individuals to feel like they can make that crucial call for emergency services now when people they know or are around need it.

That, plus the availability of the drug that can help most in overdose cases, can be the perfect combo for turning the tide in the fight against prescription abuse.

Walgreens has announced it will make naloxone available without a prescription at its pharmacies in 35 states and Washington, D.C., rolling out the program state-by-state throughout this year, Emily Hartwig, a public relations representative with Walgreens, said.

The Walgreens location at 600 Shawnee Mall Drive has confirmed that it currently carries the drug.

Harrison Discount Pharmacy, Richard's Drug, CVS, Walmart, Kmart, Eric's Pharmacy and the Walgreens at Independence and Harrison confirmed they do not carry the drug.

Representatives from Kmart and Eric's pharmacies said they have not encountered anyone requesting naloxone as of yet, but Eric's said it had considered the option, and once they saw a need they would begin to carry the drug.

Watch for more of this coverage in future editions of The Shawnee News-Star.

Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.