Should someone with a serious addiction problem be criminally charged for overdosing? She should if she is pregnant and the overdose harms the child, according to prosecutors in another state.
Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear the mother was fully responsible for the harm to her child in this case. Emergency medical technicians, police and emergency room personnel all seem to have missed the symptoms of an overdose, causing a potentially major delay in treatment for the overdose.
The 30-year-old woman was seven months pregnant when she was released from jail recently. She had been in jail for much of her pregnancy on charges of retail theft. When she was released, however, she was prescribed Narcan, a substance that reverses the potentially deadly effects of opiate overdoses. In order to have received such a prescription, she was presumably known to be a heroin addict.
Tragically, a few days the young woman was released, she injected herself with heroin she found under a couch. When the paramedics arrived, however, they did not treat her for an overdose. Instead, they apparently misdiagnosed her with a closed head injury or another injury that causes seizures. Police on the scene seem to have taken the EMTs at their word and also failed to recognize the signs of an overdose.
It wasn’t until a blood test was performed at the hospital that the presence of opiates in her system was discovered. By that time, her child suffered lasting harm. The child was born the next day and remains on life support, according to the police.
Her boyfriend initially denied using drugs, but a positive urine test got him to admit to using heroin. He has not been charged with any crime.
The young woman has been charged with a first-degree felony, aggravated assault on an unborn child. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison. She and her boyfriend have two children; the infant and a 6-year-old daughter.
This is an example of the pernicious nature of the War on Drugs. This woman was known to suffer from a serious addiction, which is a medical condition. She was at risk for overdose, and she did overdose. Medical responders failed to recognize the symptoms and her child was perhaps injured more seriously than otherwise would have happened.
If this woman knew she could go to prison for 20 years, would that have made her reconsider using that heroin? Sometimes criminal prosecution after a tragedy serves no real purpose.