254 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 37:2 2017]
The Indiana Lifeline Law effectively encourages reporting by requiring that the
person in crisis need only to “reasonably appear to be in need of medical assistance.” Laws
that specifically require the individual to experience an overdose can cause bystanders to
wait too long to seek medical care and fail to account for other life threating situations.
Studies show that minors have difficulty recognizing the signs of alcohol poisoning, and
therefore may not think their friend is “sick enough” to call 9-1-1. Under the Lifeline Law,
a caller does not have to postpone calling until the individual is experiencing an overdose.
Instead, the law encourages individuals to call 9-1-1 as soon as medical care is reasonably
needed to ensure callers not wait until it is too late.
III. HOW THE LIFELINE LAW ADDRESSES PREVENTABLE UNDERAGE ALCOHOL-
Since 2012, at least thirty-four juveniles’ lives have been saved due to the Lifeline
Law. The law is widely known and understood across Indiana High Schools and
Universities, and is widely utilized by those under the age of twenty-one seeking help for
others in need. Juveniles are less hesitant to seek medical care for their peers, because they
know they will not face legal consequences after calling 9-1-1 and that their peer can avoid
legal consequences if he completes the pre-trial diversion program. But the Lifeline Law
has accomplished more than just incentivizing 9-1-1 calls by underage drinkers – it has
also raised awareness about the signs of alcohol poisoning and the realities of binge
drinking. By granting immunities and simultaneously educating youth about the dangers
of excessive drinking, the Lifeline Law discourages harmful behavior while also providing
juveniles with a safety net – or “lifeline”- if they chose to engage in the dangerous behavior.
The same approach could successfully be applied to deal with other juvenile, drug-related
IV. EXPANDING THE LIFELINE LAW TO ADDRESS INDIANA’S HEROIN EPIDEMIC
Opioid-abuse has ravaged the state of Indiana. Indiana residents are currently more
likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident. From 2000 to 2014 to national
overdose rate nearly tripled, while the Indiana overdose rate increased at two times the
national rate. The epidemic has also affected young people. In 2014, 101 individuals
between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four died of drug overdoses. This issue can and
should be dealt with through further expansion of the Lifeline Law.
The Lifeline law was enacted to prevent underage, preventable deaths due to drug
use. Although the law initially focused on one drug in particular –alcohol – its protection
must expand to address new issues facing Indiana’s youth – heroin and opioid addiction.
Just as the Lifeline law expanded to prevent underage alcohol related deaths, it must expand
to prevent the high number of preventable overdose deaths suffered by adolescents due to
heroin and other opioids. The legislature should expand the protections afforded by the
Lifeline Law to include those related to drug overdoses. Just as the Lifeline law seeks to
encourage bystanders to seek medical care for those experiencing alcohol poisoning, it
should encourage bystanders to seek medical care for those experiencing drug overdoses.