Bill Would Hamstring First Responders’ Ability to Treat Heroin Overdoses

MACo Research Director, Robin Clark Eilenberg, testified in opposition to HB 838, Civil Immunity – Emergency Care for Drug Overdose – Protocols, to the House Judiciary Committee on March 2, 2016.

This bill undermines valuable protections that were put in place just last year to ensure that first responders and officers administering medical care for a drug overdose were afforded certain immunities under law.

First responders’ ability to act quickly and confidently is an essential element of a broad-based strategy to combat heroin misuse and overdoses. By undermining this ability, HB 838 moves Maryland policy in the wrong direction.

From the MACo testimony,

Under the current law, a first responder acting dutifully, responsibly, and in good faith to administer care would not be open to litigious action for the emergency care provided. The responder is protected so long as they have been properly trained and the care provided is not grossly negligent.

HB 838 forces even trained first responders to argue for their civil immunity. If protocol is not followed to the letter – which emergency situations sometimes make impossible – the provider would lose immunity.

This includes situations where the provider, in good faith and with the full advantages of training, administers naloxone unnecessarily. Even though he or she had every intent to save a life, under HB 838 the responder would now be open to the sort of negligence claims the current law seeks to protect against.

HB 838 would force law enforcement officers and first responders into more costly and time-intensive litigation – time and funds they could be spending in the field saving lives. This comes at a time when the state is gripped with a heroin crisis and the need for overdose response is critical.

MACo urges the Committee to honor the current protections in place for law enforcement and first responders fighting heroin overdoses by giving HB 838 an UNFAVORABLE report.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.