Fight for Lifeline Law to Protect Underage Drinkers Who Seek Medical Help

An NBC Boston investigation is prompting potential change for children in Massachusetts.

Lawmakers heard a bill for the lifeline law in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. It would allow those under 21 to call for medical help without getting into trouble for underage drinking.

Sen. Bruce Tarr introduced the legislation, crediting NBC Boston Investigators for bringing it to his attention. Tuesday, he told the committee they have an opportunity to save a lot of lives in Massachusetts.

Last summer, Melissa Aho remembers being told by doctors at the hospital, "I'm really sorry, but your daughter's not breathing on her own at all anymore."

Just 15 at the time, her daughter, Ryleigh, was drinking with friends in her hometown of Gardner. When she got sick and passed out, her friends propped her up against a fence and fled, afraid of getting into trouble with police.

She spent days in a coma on life support.

"Since we filed it, it is been gaining support and I think it has a very good chance of passage as a result," Tarr said.

Families have called Tarr's office in support of the lifeline law.

"Parents saying, 'I'd like this to be the law. I haven't had this situation happen to me, but I understand how it could and we think it deserves passage,'" he recalled.

Massachusetts is one of only 15 states not to have a law protecting kids from prosecution if they call for help. Studies show medical calls for help jumped more than 51 percent in states with a lifeline law.

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