State officials and grieving family members delivered a clear, insistent message Tuesday night to IU Bloomington students who attended Make the Call Day, a student-organized program to publicize the Indiana Lifeline Law and the campus’s Hoosier PACT policy.
If you’re with a friend or an acquaintance or even a stranger who appears to need medical help because of alcohol, they said, please, call for help. Don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about legal repercussions. Just call.
No one made the call for Rachael Fiege, at least not right away. The 19-year-old freshman died six weeks ago after falling down and striking her head at an off-campus party during IU’s Welcome Week. Her friends put her to bed and didn’t seek help until she didn’t wake up the next morning.
“I keep coming back to the question of whether Rachael could have survived if she had received more prompt medical care,” her brother, IU junior Jeremy Fiege, told the students at the forum sponsored by the IU Student Association’s Culture of Care initiative and the Indiana Memorial Union Board.
And no one made the call for Brett Finbloom, an 18-year-old Carmel, Ind., resident who died from alcohol poisoning a few days before he was to leave for college at the University of Oklahoma.
“The fact is, Brett may still be alive today if someone had just called 911 as soon as he passed out,” his father, Norman Finbloom, said.
Brett Finbloom died just weeks after the enactment of the Indiana Lifeline Law, which provides limited legal immunity from alcohol-related charges for people who call for help and cooperate with authorities. But his friends, recent high-school graduates, didn’t know about the law and were worried about getting in trouble for under-age drinking. Since their son’s death, Norman and Dawn Finbloom have devoted their lives to informing others about the law and about the dangers of binge drinking.
Hoosier PACT is an IU policy that exempts students from campus disciplinary sanctions if they get help for someone who needs medical assistance because of alcohol or drug use.
IU sophomore Taylor Studebaker, a friend of Brett Finbloom since elementary school, said people should always err on the side of safety.
“I don’t know the difference between passed out and dying, and neither do you,” she said. “So please, make the call.”
Jeremy Fiege said the people who were with his sister weren’t worried about legal jeopardy. They simply didn’t understand how seriously she had been injured. “When you’re dealing with victims of head injuries, you have to act out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
But legal worries are sometimes enough to cause young people to hesitate to call for help, especially if their judgment is clouded by drinking. Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, the author of the Lifeline Law, said young people will inevitably make mistakes, and the law should allow for that.
Zoeller, the state attorney general, said it’s up to students and other young people to raise awareness of the Indiana Lifeline Law and the importance of intervening when people need help.
“People are not going to listen to some 50-year-old lawyer from Indianapolis who comes down here and gives a lecture,” he said. “But they will listen to their friends.”