Good Samaritan laws are meant to protect someone from legal liability when providing help to a person in distress. Ohio has had a Good Samaritan Law since 1977 to protect people from malpractice lawsuits when providing emergency medical and non-medical care to someone in need. This protection is not just for off-duty medical professionals but also for any citizen. This law does not protect someone who deliberately acts in a way that they know can cause further harm, or who accepts money, gifts, or any form or payment for helping.
Do you have to help someone in distress? Ohio does have a “duty to rescue” rule and requires you to help someone in distress if:
- You are responsible for the welfare of a child. This includes parents, guardians, teachers, and any adult responsible for the child.
- Your actions caused the danger.
- You started to help – you must continue to help unless the situation changes to put you in danger.
In 2016, Ohio revised its Good Samaritan laws (Ohio Revised Code Section 2925.11) to encourage people to call 911 when they see someone who overdoses. What this law does is provide immunity for minor drug possession, amounts considered to be a misdemeanor or fifth-degree felony, to individuals who seek emergency help for themselves or another person during a drug overdose. The 911 operator receiving the overdose call can help explain this immunity if asked. You cannot be arrested or prosecuted if:
- Law enforcement found the drugs as a result of seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose.
- The person has a drug test and receives referral for treatment from an accredited addiction treatment program or professional within 30 days.
- The person provides documentation, when requested by a prosecutor, verifying the date and time of the drug test and receiving the referral.
This immunity can be used twice and people on parole or probation are not eligible. The immunity is limited to possession of controlled substances. House Bill 205 is currently in the Ohio Legislature and, if approved, it will expand immunity to include drug paraphernalia.