N.H. Panel Wants Study on Good Samaritan Laws

Concord — A Senate committee is not ready to endorse a bill offering legal immunity to anyone to calls 911 during a drug or alcohol overdose emergency.

But committee members voiced a desire to consider a Good Samaritan bill in the future, after addressing concerns from law enforcement officials and other groups. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend further study of the so-called Good Samaritan law that passed in the House last year.

“This bill proved to be extremely, extremely complicated,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican and the committee’s chairwoman. “...We pretty much all agreed we don’t want to see people dying or being put in a very difficult situation because they’re afraid to go to the hospital because they’ve overdosed on an illegal drug or they’re someone who is underage who has been drinking and shouldn’t be drinking.”

When the House passed the bill last year, backers said it could save lives. But Carson said many Senate committee members had concerns, and said the aspect of the bill that would grant immunity in drug overdoses was “extremely problematic.” Carson also wanted to hear more about concerns from law enforcement officials, and from officials on college campuses about the potential impact of immunity in cases of alcohol-related emergencies.

Carson said she wanted to establish a study committee in part to watch Good Samaritan laws in other states. Those laws are relatively new, she said, and a study committee could monitor their implementation.

Sen. Donna Soucy, a Manchester Democrat, agreed further study was necessary, but said she hopes the study committee leads to a new bill.

“I really, really hope the committee is able to come up with something because I do believe ultimately that legislation like this could save a life,” Soucy said.

The recommendation to create a study committee will next go before the full Senate.