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LETTERS | AN OVERDOSE AND ITS AFTERMATH

Law is in place to motivate acts of good Samaritans,

but we need to promote it

| JUNE 15, 2014

 

I READ with horror the story of the death of Harry Kasper from a heroin overdose (“A father’s unstoppable need to know,” Page A1, June 8). He was not taken to the emergency room or given a medication, such as naloxone, or Narcan, that could have saved his life. Instead, his companions watched him die.

This story is also my story, as my daughter died of an overdose in 1999. This has changed my life and that of my family and friends. As a result of her death, my husband and I became active in the drug-education community and in learning how to prevent these deaths. We worked for many years to pass the so-called Good Samaritan Law, which finally came about in 2012.

 

This law encourages witnesses to an overdose to call 911 without fear of prosecution. It was not in effect when my daughter died or when Kasper died. But it is now.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the uptick in heroin overdoses and the use of Narcan. However, there has been little discussion about the value of the Good Samaritan Law. This article would have been the perfect occasion to highlight it.

 

Susan Sheehan

Falmouth

Letters

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EDITORIAL

People who let friends die of overdoses should be prosecuted

JUNE 15, 2014

 

FOR ALLOWING a friend to die of a heroin overdose, and then dumping him behind some bushes, Henry Corley and Ricky James Mangum received a combined total of $5 in fines and three years of probation for disposing of a body improperly. That was the disturbing end to the tragic story of Harry Kasper, a 24-year-old who died in 2011 in Brighton after a night of drug use with the two men.

A simple call to 911 might have saved Kasper’s life, and now his father, Jim Kasper, is lobbying prosecutors to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against the two men who sat by while his son died. If prosecutors do bring charges, and win a conviction, it could set an important precedent: Drug users who fail to report overdoses may be held criminally responsible.

 

The signs of heroin overdoses — slow breathing, blue lips — are hard to miss and, in this case, Corley claims he realized that Kasper was overdosing but did not call police after Mangum threatened to kill him. (Implausibly, Mangum says he didn’t realize Kasper was overdosing.)

Editorials

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Fear of prosecution for drug offenses should never be an excuse for withholding medical attention. But now there’s even less reason for a reaction like Mangum’s. Although it was not in effect in 2011, the Commonwealths’ Good Samaritan law now protects bystanders who report overdoses, including other drug users, who will not be prosecuted for possession if they call 911 to report an overdose. That law needs more publicity. At the same time, prosecuting Corley and Mangum would send a complementary message: When someone is dying, there is never a reason not to call 911.