Medical Amnesty Myths Debunked


Dobbs DUC
The Dobbs University Center (DUC). Photo by Jason Oh.

By Stephen Fowler
Asst. News Editor

Acting Assistant Dean and Director of Student Conduct Marlon Gibson and Health Promotion Specialist Jessica Hill have a message for Emory students: be safe.

Gibson and Hill have been working this semester on increasing education and awareness surrounding the Division of Campus Life’s medical amnesty protocol for students and organizations.

The protocol, which according to the medical amnesty page on the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) website, seeks to “remove barriers to acquiring help” in a medical emergency, is in place to ensure the health and safety of students on campus, Gibson said.

“Don’t be afraid to make the call,” Gibson said. “Our first priority is to save lives.”

When an individual or organization (such as a fraternity or sorority) makes a call for medical assistance during an alcohol or other drug-related emergency, the incident report is forwarded from Gibson to Willie Bannister, the substance abuse counselor and health educator for OHP.

There is no conduct process involved, Gibson said, unless there are allegations of sexual assault or other serious conduct violations in conjunction with the medical emergency.

For Hill, who has been in her role for a year and a half, this is the first fall semester she and OHP are able to operate a cohesive campaign surrounding the protocol. Hill and her colleagues have been able to give thorough presentations to Orientation Leaders, Residence Life staff and other Campus Life professionals.

“Before I came here, there were little pockets of education here and there, but now things have culminated into one strategy for effective communication of our messaging,” Hill said.

Hill said she has heard several myths and misconceptions about medical amnesty that range from bizarre to downright dangerous.

“Medical amnesty is not limited to first-year students, it’s not something that is ‘taken away’ or can be used once and is not a get-out-of-jail free card,” Hill said. The protocol applies to all undergraduate students regardless of prior amnesties.

Hill added it is also important to note the self-reported drinking habits of students on campus. According to OHP surveys, approximately one-third of students engage in high-risk drinking behavior, one-third engage in low-risk drinking behavior and one-third say they do not drink at all.

OHP has several initiatives to increase awareness and prevent high-risk alcohol use, including informational websites, posters and the “If You Drink, Drink Like Dooley” campaign, launched during the 2014 Dooley’s Week. This campaign utilizes Emory’s resident Lord of Misrule to educate students on safe strategies, such as keeping track of drinks and staying hydrated.

“We want people to feel confident about calling for help when they need it,” Hill said. “We also want to make sure that students understand they don’t have to get to that point.”

In addition, Hill encourages students to visit the OHP website and to memorize the acronym “CUPS” — cold skin, unresponsive, puking and slowed breathing — to be aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning.

One more recent aspect of education Gibson has undergone this year is educating fraternity chapters about the protocol.
He said that two chapters have fallen under the medical amnesty protocol this year, and he is very thankful that members called.
The education component for organizations often involves a review of risk-management policies and informational meetings with executive board members, but unless there are other violations of the Undergraduate Code of Conduct there isn’t an investigation, Gibson said.

College freshman Gigi Moody said she is glad there is an increase in education, because many of her friends don’t have the right information about the protocol.

“A lot of my friends think [medical amnesty] is only for freshmen and that you can lose it once,” Moody said. “It’s a good idea, but I think people abuse it.”

Moody added that she hopes that people change their views on using medical amnesty after learning more.

Gibson said that the medical amnesty protocol is a more public-facing example of the countless ways Campus Life cares for students.

“I don’t think there is anyone I can think of in Campus Life that doesn’t have a huge passion for helping students,” Gibson said.

“Although I know students may view my office in particular otherwise,” he joked.

—By Stephen Fowler, Asst. News Editor