I had the honor of teaching Mike while he was a student at Judge Memorial, and it was a pure pleasure to be able to work with him in the classroom. His smile was infectious, and his sense of timing for his witty comments was always impeccable. I will forever remember his laugh and enthusiasm for film. Your family is in my thoughts and I wish you all much strength.
-EP, Salt Lake City
We Support an Effective Good Samaritan Law in Utah
Our son died in an alcohol-driven Sigma Nu fraternity initiation at Utah State University on November 21, 2008. At the time of the pledge, those who planned and choreographed the initiation ceremony, when realizing that Michael might be in mortal danger, called Poison Control and gave false information out of fear for their own well-being. They deliberately mis-stated Michael’s age (21), the amount and type of alcohol consumed (a half bottle of whiskey) and the location (Layton, Utah). Our son was 18 years old, he had consumed nearly a full bottle of Vodka, and house they had chosen was in Logan, not far from the Utah State University campus. Those present included the top-ranking members of the fraternity. Because of this false information, Poison Control gave instructions for someone at far less critical risk than our son. The leadership members of Sigma Nu present and involved in the call to Poison Control looked after themselves well. No one was charged or prosecuted for hazing, which is, by Utah Code, a felony when serious injury or death occurs.
With several bills addressing the subject of hazing clearing the 2010 legislature, the structuring, introduction, and passing of a Good Samaritan law was critical. This would allow for other students present in any hazing to call for emergency help with accurate information without fear of legal prosecution and reprisals by legal authorities and the university itself. Had such a law been in place and had those involved in the hazing been aware of it, Michael might well be with us today. Good Samaritan legislation was, in fact, passed in 2010 and while our family remains grateful, the strengthening and publicizing of our Utah Good Samaritan legislation remains imperative.
We found that Utah lawmakers opposing such extensive legislation as introduced did so out of a belief that allowing an underage lawbreaker to go free of prosecution is worse than the possible subsequent death of a young person from alcohol poisoning. It was also expressed that with Utah being predominately LDS, far too-few students imbibed in alcohol to justify such extreme legislation.
New York State’s Good Samaritan Law, which went into effect last July, allows New York residents to call 911 if there is an alcohol or drug-related emergency without being penalized. The law extends Cornell University’s existing medical amnesty policy, giving students full protection in the most recent revision. The law provides amnesty to all parties involved – the
person calling, the person affected, and any bystanders who witness the emergency. “As president of a (fraternity) house, our number one focus is on safety including the safety of any person who comes into our frat.” Said Itajar Niesvizky, president of Delta Upsilon. “Whether there is questionably or definitely an issue of safety, there should be no deterrent to calling an ambulance.” Other states, as well, including the State of Michigan, are processing similar laws. We, as a family, though late for us, welcome this wholeheartedly and remain deeply grateful.
It has been conceded that Utah’s recent Good Samaritan law required “watering down’ to ensure passage. It would be far less than well-serving to the Utah public in general and our young people at state colleges and universities specifically, to allow that ‘lessening of effect’ to result in further loss of life.
Please let your own legislator know that you have college-age children, value their lives, and fully support extensive, unqualified,
Good Samaritan legislation. Be concerned and express your concern. Too many young lives are lost at the expense of empathy, indifference, misinformation, and neglect. As Michael’s family, we learned tragically that virtually nothing can replace your own involvement in your child’s life –
at home or away. Check this website regularly for updates, new web links, and ongoing hazing/bullying news impacting the safety of your child in Utah colleges and universities.