April 11, 2012

Panhellenic Passes New Medical Amnesty Policy

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The Panhellenic Council unanimously passed its new Panhellenic Medical Amnesty Protocol on Wednesday in an effort to educate sororities about social responsibility in health crises. The protocol was the first of its kind for the council, according to Laura Sanders, assistant dean of students and advisor to the Panhellenic Council.

The protocol states that in the event of an emergency, if a member of a sorority chapter calls for medical assistance immediately, the Greek judicial system will not penalize that chapter.

“Reciprocally, failure to call for medical assistance in an appropriate manner will be considered an ‘aggravating circumstance’ and may affect the judicial response if violations have occurred,” the protocol states.

The policy also states that although calling for help gives a chapter amnesty from judicial consequences, the council reserves the right to take informal actions to address concerns about the chapter’s behavior — particularly if “a trend of medical emergencies” emerges.

According to Margo Cohen Ristorucci ’13, vice president of judicial affairs and standards for the Panhellenic Council, who is a senior news writer for The Sun, the protocol was developed to ensure that sorority women are not afraid to call for help when a member of their chapter is in a medical emergency.

“The safety of our sisters is of the utmost importance,” Cohen Ristorucci said. “In creating this protocol, we hope to diminish any fear of seeking medical assistance in times of need. There should never be a reason not to call for help when someone is in danger.”

According to Cohen Ristorucci, the protocol drew inspiration from the Interfraternity Council’s Medical Amnesty Protocol, the University’s Medical Amnesty policy and New York’s Good Samaritan law. IFC’s Medical Amnesty Protocol uses a three-strike rule, which allows an individual chapter to call for medical assistance up to three times without any judicial penalties. The University’s Medical Amnesty policy offers judicial amnesty for students who make medical assistance calls on behalf of another individual, with no limit on the number of instances for which students can be given amnesty.

Panhellenic’s new protocol also does not enforce a limit like IFC’s “three-strike” rule.

Prior to passing the resolution, Panhellenic was operating under IFC’s protocol. Sanders said it was time for the council to develop its own set of regulations to abide by in an emergency.

“Each council has very different situations that come to the Greek Judicial Board because of the typical violations the members of that council face,” Sanders said. “That [particular] council also decides which sanctions would be meaningful and applicable for that specific case.”

Cohen Ristorucci said she reached out to chapter presidents, risk managers and social chairs to develop a Panhellenic-specific protocol.

“It was really important to me to solicit feedback from leaders in the Panhellenic community, because if the Medical Amnesty Protocol [does] not resonate as meaningful and realistic to them, it is just empty rhetoric,” Cohen Ristorucci said.

Sanders added that the new policy does not necessarily condone illegal or unsafe drinking. Rather, it is meant to emphasize to chapters that getting help for a sister in danger should be their top priority.

According to Hollis Hanley ’13, president of the Panhellenic Council, there is a general consensus among chapters that the council should implement the policy immediately rather than wait until the fall.

In the future, Panhellenic may collaborate with administrators or train chapter members to educate their sisters about medical amnesty, Cohen Ristorucci said.

“Chapters have been identifying women who are Emergency Medical Technicians or interested in safety issues,” she said. “I would love for these women to participate in a pilot ‘Medical Amnesty Advocates’ program, in which trained advocates could offer invaluable advice to their chapters.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that the Panhellenic Council’s new medical amnesty poilcy is limited to health crises involving alcohol. In fact, the policy covers all health crises.

Original Author: Rachel Rabinowitz