When someone doesn’t contact 911 to report an opioid incident – and they leave the victim to their own devices – then that’s an act of incompetence at the very least, or an act of cowardice and wilful conduct at worst.
I would go so far as to call it a criminal act, because of the endangerment to the user’s life.
I recently came across a report by Mike Hager of The Globe and Mail, entitled ‘Majority of bystanders who administer opioid antidote don’t call 911: study’.
Among the details in his report, “up to two-thirds of Canadian bystanders who have recently administered the antidote for an opioid overdose to someone did not call 911 after that crucial moment, with the No. 1 reason being a fear of getting arrested for drug offences.”
The data, collected by the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, shows that 44 per cent of respondents said they were too scared of getting police involved to call 911 during an overdose. Or, and which I call an excuse without justification, 37 per cent said they had the sense that the situation was under control or that the person would recover on their own.
The story goes on to say that Canada could fight this reluctance to call 911 by enacting laws which give immunity from prosecution. There is a Private Member’s Bill going through Parliament right now to give such protection, but it’s unclear if its provisions would be enough to offer enough broad immunity.
First, let’s deal with the irresponsibility of not calling 911. If someone’s life is in danger from an opioid like Fentanyl, then whoever is with that person, whether or not they administered an antidote like Naloxone, they have an obligation to call 911 immediately.
If they don’t, then they’re nothing more than moral cowards and guilty of not giving appropriate assistance to the user. Whether you’re scared or not, there is no excuse for not acting properly and morally.
Morever, if the victim dies because of not calling 911, then that’s manslaughter at the very least – and their death is on the irresponsible person’s conscience.
And it is inexcusable to have the attitude that the opioid user can be left to their own devices, that the other person believes the situation is “under control.”
When you’re dealing with a vulnerable person like an opioid user, who could accept rationally that the situation is “under control” for them?
You offer all the assistance you can, including the call to 911, and ensure that they are getting the help they need. You don’t just leave them to their own devices.
As for this Private Member’s Bill to offer immunity from prosecution, if it’s a dealer, friend or other person who gave the opioid to the user, then they would be allowed to escape criminal responsibility for their actions.
That sets a dangerous precedent in criminal law. It swings the pendulum of the justice system in favour of the criminal and permits a double standard for the prosecution of some and not others.
So I say, no deals or exemptions should be allowed for the perpetrators of opioid addiction and the abandonment of the users.