The Chicago Tribune’s John Byrne detailed a case yesterday morning in which the city of Chicago is being sued by the same law firm that recently won a huge settlement in a suit over the cities mishandling of red light and speeding camera tickets. This time the firm, Myron M. Cherry & Associates, will be suing on behalf of drivers given cellphone tickets since the start of 2010. According to Byrne’s the suit “alleges the city took the cases to municipal administrative court for years in a bid to keep all the fines rather than share the money with county and state authorities.” According to the firm the cases were supposed to be taken to the state traffic courts instead where the proceeds from the fines would’ve been divided up. The motive for this according to the plaintiffs is clear as the suit contends that the city “purposefully circumvented the Illinois statutory scheme for prose cutting alleged distracted driving offenses and reporting offenders. Rather than send alleged ordinance violators to state traffic court, the city misrouted allegedly distracted drivers to the city’s private administrative justice system. The reason was simple: money.” Their basis for beginning the complaints at the start of 2010 is that there was a law passed requiring distracted driving citations to go to state traffic court that took effect that year. The article took a quote from Jacie Zolna, one of the attorneys filing the suit, stating “It’s another case of the city viewing municipal ordinance violations as a personal piggy bank. I think people are getting sick of it.” Zolna’s red light and speeding camera tickets suit last month won $38.75 million from the city council, and the forgiveness of 12 million dollars in unpaid tickets as part of the settlement. The suit will be seeking a similar refunding of all cellphone tickets since the start of 2010.
The Chicago Tribune detailed a pretty weird story last week, of a Harwood Heights attempted bank robbery. The suspect being held in custody, Andrew Johnston, reportedly demanded $2,500-3,500 dollars from the bank tellers stating that he was robbing the place wearing a black mask and holding a phone to his face. He told them apparently that a family member had been kidnapped and a family member was dealing with gambling issues. He also reportedly was not carrying any gun. According to the article a customer in the drive through lane was alerted by one of the terrified tellers. “The teller stated that she was “really scared” and put her hands up, telling investigators that the suspect mumbled so fast at times she couldn’t understand his words, according to the complaint. She told investigators that she looked out the drive-up window and saw a customer holding up his phone, motioning to the teller as to whether she needed him to call the police, the complaint said. The teller stated that when she nodded “yes” toward the customer, Johnston appeared to notice and left the bank without taking money, according to the complaint.” The police were able to catch the fleeing suspect with a detailed witness description of what he looked like and what car he was driving in.
The stranger part of the story comes after the arrest where the suspect Johnston seemed to feel genuine remorse for what he had done, after hearing how traumatized one of the bank tellers was. According to Harwood Heights deputy chief John DeVries, “So after I showed him to the tellers, the one teller was really emotionally upset, very hysterical about what was going on. I walked him back to my squad car and I said, ‘Did you see the face of that young girl who works here for probably $10 an hour, how shook up she was?’ He asked me if I could please walk him back to the window so he could apologize, sincerely, to this woman for what he did to her,” DeVries said. “And he did — he was very sincere about it. It’s in my report, and when the federal agents came I made sure that was noted because I found that was impressive on my part as a policeman. So kudos to him.” The apology was very unusual according to DeVries, saying he had never seen something like it in over 30 years of investigative work in the town.
Lets be happy that no one was physically hurt though obviously our best goes out to the traumatized bank tellers who had to face the possibility of robbery and danger to their persons. Knowing the mental damage the suspect caused, it’s also good though that he seemed genuinely remorseful for it and I hope he can get his life on track and not put himself and others in these types of situations again. The article didn’t mention whether his story about the gambling or kidnapping were confirmed or found to be fabricated.
In an article a few weeks ago from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the groundwork for a reliable Marijuana breathalyzer was discussed. Since Marijuana is burgeoning more and more in society as an acceptable and medicinally useful substance, there’s been a larger push to establish reliable breathalyzers to determine if a person is too high to be driving. 28 states now allow either recreational or medicinal use and there’s a growing worry that this will cause more drivers to go out on the road under a heavy influence of Marijuana. As you can imagine though, it’s a lot more complicated accurately measuring how much someone is under the influence of marijuana than it is for alcohol. It’s also not like alcohol breathalyzers are some perfect thing either. They are by their design imperfect and have to be used in a very specific time frame to be effective and usable in court proceedings. So the fight to determine if someone is too high to drive is an uphill battle and i’m not even sure if it’s one worth fighting for. However, it seems scientists at NIST(where said article is from) have made a mini breakthrough according to this piece. “But scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken an important step toward that goal by measuring a fundamental physical property of the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Specifically, they measured the vapor pressure of this compound—a measurement that, due to the compound’s chemical structure, is very difficult and has not been accomplished before. The results were published in Forensic Chemistry.” NIST left the link to those results so you may access them here as well. Tara Lovestead, the author of the study explains that vapor pressure “describes how a compound behaves when it transitions from a liquid to a gas. That’s what happens in your lungs when a molecule leaves the blood to be exhaled in your breath. So if you want to accurately measure blood levels based on breath, you need to know the vapor pressure.” Despite this little breakthrough there is still much more research needed to actually move forward with this reliable breathalyzer idea and there are more underlying questions that further complicate this crusade.
One concern the article mentions, is how do you determine if a person is too impaired by marijuana to drive? What level of being high makes a dangerous driver out on the road and what is the relationship between motor vehicle accidents and marijuana intoxication? Are those relationships direct or indirect? When does an officer have probable cause to use it? These questions have no easy answers at all. There are enormous complications in determining if being high makes you more likely for an accident which is the assumption under which a breathalyzer would work. As with alcohol there is also a vast difference in people’s reactions to Marijuana based on a variety of different factors. Things like weight, age, amount of food consumed, prior experience in smoking all make a difference. An experienced marijuana consumer who say smokes a 1 gram blunt to themselves will very likely be in a less inebriated state than say someone who hasn’t smoked much if at all before and shares in on smoking a .5 gram bowl or blunt. So how do you deal with that variation? I think the fact that there are a vast amount of different Marijuana strains with differing effects also further complicates things. There are Indica strains- strains that are useful for relaxation, anxiety, insomnia, and pain relief. These are the ones generally used medically and they can cause sleepiness or disorientation depending on how much you consume. There are also a variety of strains of the Indica branch that again have differing effects. The relaxation type strain is what I envision being more stigmatized when used for driving, because it’s purpose is to slow you down and usually make you tired.
Other strains like the Sativa strains are useful for a more uplifting, energetic, or euphoric feeling and are also known to increase focus and creativity. Once again, there also many differing types under the Sativa branch. But I think you can see why this would be complicated if Sativa marijuana can actually make you more focused. I am skeptical a person high on a Sativa strain is a danger on the road at all or more dangerous than someone under a lesser influence of an Indica strain.
Also, people smoking Indica strains are logically going to be less likely to want to go out on the road and drive, since they’re probably going to be tired. There’s obviously exceptions to this but my point is that the people who I think would be more likely to be unsafe drivers under the influence of marijuana are more likely to stay off the road and the people who are more likely to go out on the road under the influence of weed are more likely to be safe drivers under that influence. That is speculation on my part but I think it makes logistical sense. Also these strains don’t just have differing effects but differing effectiveness. Smoking a little bit of a very powerful strain can make you very high while smoking a lot of a weaker cheaper strain might not even affect you that much. So even though NIST is developing a technology called PLOT-cryo that could be better at measuring vapor pressure and therefore calibrating breathalyzers to a standard measurement, I’d still be skeptical whether it be effective in determining how much influence someone is under and whether that influence is actually affecting their driving ability. People shouldn’t be driving impaired but the logistics of this idea are very tough.
This is the opinion of Jake Morask and not Laura Law as a whole.
In a Tribune article this morning(a few days ago now) from Contact Reporter Mary Wisniewski, the struggles of cyclists in Chicago Area suburbs were detailed. In a report from the Active Transportation Alliance, which promotes biking, apparently Suburban bikers still face many discomforts despite the city of Chicago in contrast being one of the most cyclist friendly cities in the country. One problem is that Suburbs were really constructed for car transportation and it’s tough integrating biking transportation effectively into them. Things like Highway overpasses force bikers to travel far to go around it and sometimes face busy suburban streets that make cyclists nervous. But another is that the suburbs themselves haven’t done a good job implementing bike friendly policies compared to their city counterparts. According to Wisniewski, “The report identified five different problems for suburban cyclists: most suburbs are not designed to be bike-friendly; too few suburbs have bike and pedestrian-friendly policies in place; the number of people biking to work may be falling; bike crashes remain stubbornly high; and large gaps remain in the regional trail network. An average of 10 bicyclists are killed annually in the suburbs, and 1,171 are injured, according to Illinois Department of Transportation statistics, cited in the report.” So while there are inherent design issues that make integrating biking tough, the lack of bike and pedestrian friendly policies has made biking even more uncomfortable and unsafe in certain Suburbs.
These problems are connected obviously and some are advocating adding bike lanes or pedestrian islands to make things safer and easier for both to move around. Bill Chalberg, the president of the Downers Grove Cyclists Club argued, “I think there’s an opportunity to improve things by adding bike lanes,” said Chalberg. “It’s a leap of faith. If you put them in, slowly I think people will use them.” While the city of Chicago has clear plans in place to continue to improve things for cyclists, which is apparently syphoning off corporate opportunities from the suburbs due to the youth friendly nature of the bike plans, suburbs have no urgent plans in place. Even the ones that do have plans apparently have “let them gather dust on a shelf” according to Ride Illinois president Ed Barsotti.
There are a number of suburbs though that appear to be making an effort to be better at least. “Among the towns that have made progress in adding bike and pedestrian infrastructure are Aurora, which has a new protected lane through its downtown corridor; Evanston, which also has protected lanes; and Bensenville, which is planning for specific trail and bike lane improvements, according to the Active Transportation Alliance report. Both Evanston and Oak Park participate in the Divvy bike-share system, while Aurora started bike-sharing this summer with Zagster, Inc. Richton Park is adding a permanent protected bike lane and pedestrian refuge islands; Chicago Heights is looking to extend the Thorn Creek Trail; and Arlington Heights has created a bicycle and pedestrian advisory commission.” However there are also reports of clashes between Motorists and Cyclists in other notable suburbs like Barrington Hills.
Three years ago there, Motorists claimed bikers were being unsafe riders and making things dangerous for everyone, while bikers naturally accused that the motorists were driving them off the road. Some residents also are against some bike friendly measures because they worry what that’ll do to their private property. The village president Edward McLaughlin claimed “The village also decided not to ask for road-widening funds to accommodate bicyclists, because of the effect on private property. “We’d have to tear out a ton of heritage trees,” but also stated that village isn’t opposed to biking in of itself and that non village owned routes could be a good compromise for accommodating cyclists better.
There is also going to be a $40 million dollar grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation’s next Transportation Enhancement Program this fall which will be very relevant for improving biking conditions for whatever municipality attains it. Winners for the grant are to be announced in the following spring. I have little to no experience with biking so I can’t speak to the clashes between them and motorists but biking is something better than cars for the environment and better for peoples wallets too. So I think improving conditions for more biking is a reasonable goal.
-This article is based on the opinions of Jake Morask, not Laura Law as a whole
This morning,(now a few days ago) the president went to Twitter to tell the nation that he is planning on banning Transgender people from serving in any capacity for the Military. This would reverse Obama’s decision last year to allow Transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. There are an estimated 15,500 Transgender people currently serving. Laura Law office would like to say we stand with the LGBT+ community and see any ban on Transgender service illegal, discriminatory, and unpatriotic.
A few weeks ago this blog detailed the incredibly disturbing allegations of sexual harassment at Uber, which seems to be symptoms of a male dominated environment that excludes women and doesn’t properly enforce sexual harassment rules. Now this morning,(Edit-now last month) it’s been announced that the embattled CEO Travis Kalanick is stepping down, as detailed in Tom Fishers article in the Chicago tribune. Apparently Kalanick had received a letter Tuesday from investors demanding that he resign. This also comes at a tough personal time for Kalanick as he has recently lost his mother. But as the article details, his fallout from the company was very much his own doing. “The resignation came after a series of costly missteps under Kalanick that damaged Uber’s reputation, including revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and a federal investigation into efforts to mislead local government regulators.” Uber had a quick rise after its conception confronting the taxi service, but these recent missteps of the company have many questioning whether it can adjust and become a mature and stable business. The company recently lost a battle in China to a major ride sharing company, Didi Chuxing, which contributed to Uber posting a $708 million first quarter loss. Kalanick’s leadership style is known as heavily combative which has probably undermined both him and the companies reputation. The article quotes Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in detailing some of the ways that this combative style alienated investors, customers, and drivers; “The significance of Uber has declined because the company has not managed to present itself in a stable and socially responsible way,” Dudenhoeffer said. “When you’re at war with customers, employees, service suppliers, you can’t build up a business model and Kalanick was at war with everyone.” Dudenhoeffer concluded “There is no business model in being at war.” Kalanick constantly got in his own way and he and everyone is paying the price.
The biggest issues Uber has though are not economic, (though they may argue that) but involve a lack of ethics and social responsibility as Dudenhoeffer explained. As mentioned before, Uber has been accused of being an unsafe work environment and a former engineer in February wrote a personal essay detailing her year at Uber and the sexual harassment she faced from her manager, who she then reported to human resources. But as Fisher explains, “She reported him to human resources, but was told he would get a lecture and no further punishment because he was a “high performer,” she wrote. This got the boards attention and was a big step towards Kalanick’s downfall. This led to the firing of about 20 people, and an investigation into Uber’s workplace by the Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder’s probe revealed that Uber didn’t even have the most basic policies used to protect employees from sexual harassment.
Another incident which made many question Kalanick further happened when a video surfaced in February showing Kalanick berating a driver who was complaining about his pay. Many drivers feel that Kalanick is exploiting their labor and he has resisted a tipping feature in the app. Kalanick’s parting statement sounded a bit like him trying to make himself into a martyr. “In a statement, the 40-year-old co-founder said his resignation would help Uber go back to building “rather than be distracted with another fight,” an apparent reference to efforts on the board to oust him.” The board though was trying to oust him because he had completely undermined their company. The move is a needed one for Uber who needs to undergo some serious changes if it wants to make itself into a respectable business that isn’t exploitive or unsafe for people. It would especially help if they could integrate women into the company instead of pretty much everyone in power being male. This is an issue with Silicon Valley and many businesses across the country in general.
At LauraLaw, we tend to stick to legal news instead of pop culture, but sometimes the two intersect. A few days ago, Robert Kardashian (son of the late Robert Kardashian, Sr., who once represented OJ Simpson) posted nude photographs and explicit images of his ex-fiancé, Blac Chyna, on his Instagram account. The photos were posted without Blac Chyna’s consent to the posting. Instagram eventually removed the images and blocked Kardashian’s account; however, the damage was already done.
At first glance, this appears to be an argument between two feuding exes, but it actually implicates so much more. Although he has not been charged, Kardashian’s actions could constitute “nonconsensual pornography” in the eyes of California law. Nonconsensual pornography, or “revenge porn” as it is commonly called, is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 647(j)(4). The statute states that, “A person who intentionally distributes the image of the intimate body part or parts of another identifiable person, or an image of the person depicted engaged in an act of sexual intercourse . . . in which the person depicted participates under circumstances in which the persons agree or understand that the image shall remain private, the person distributing the image knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress” is guilty of a misdemeanor. In this case, Kardashian posted photographs of intimate body parts of Blac Chyna that she sent to him while they were in a relationship, and were supposed to remain private.
The California nonconsensual pornography law went in to effect to protect victims from this kind of online harassment. Before this law, victims of actions like Kardashian’s had no recourse for having their incredibly private photographs and images displayed across social media. Now, other states have followed California’s lead and enacted similar laws to protect privacy.
In Illinois, posting revenge porn is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison, restitution, fines of up to $25,000, and costs. 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5 addresses non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, describing it as the intentional dissemination or an image of another person “(A) who is at least 18 years old; (B) who is identifiable from the image itself or information displayed in connection with the image; and (C) who is engaged in a sexual act or whose intimate parts are exposed, in whole or in part. The statute also criminalizes obtaining the image under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know or understand that the image was to remain private and knows, or should have known that the image was to remain private.”
In this author’s opinion, the bottom line is this: A consenting adult who chooses to share a private sexual image of themselves with another consenting adult should be able to protect those images from public dissemination, and breaching that privacy should be criminalized. It can be humiliating and traumatizing to see such private photographs displayed for public consumption, and especially embarrassing when that public includes family members, friends, colleagues, and employers.
Non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images is a crime, whether the image is shared with a group of friends or 2 million Instagram followers. If you, a friend, or family member find yourself on either side of this situation, contact us at LauraLaw to discuss your legal options.
No one really plans to be out sick from work – well, unless there is an afternoon Cubs game. Should you actually fall ill, however, and are concerned about missing pay and time from work, you may be in a luck.
A new paid sick leave law is in effect in for employers in Cook County and Chicago. While employees are rejoicing, many Human Resources representatives and providers are calling it an “administrative nightmare.”
These are some of the highlights of the new Cook County and Chicago laws:
- The new laws in both Cook County and Chicago require almost all employers to allow their workers to accrue an hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked. This applies to all workers, whether full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary.
- Employers have the option to give their employees the sick leave up front, or have them accrue it.
- Workers are able to earn 5 paid sick days a year.
- Workers will be permitted to carry over portions of unused sick time to the following year, which is a departure from many employers’ current sick leave policies.
- The sick time off can be used for the employee, to care for a family member in cases of domestic violence, illness, injury, or a public health emergency closing a child’s school or family member’s workplace.
- These laws will help an estimated 40% of private sector workers who do not get any paid sick leave.
As mentioned, these new laws are not without their problems. Many Cook County suburbs have opted out of the county law, creating a headache for employers who have staff in multiple towns. HR departments now have to track each individuals’ paid sick leave carry-over time and requests in addition to their current leave policies. And, if the employee works in multiple towns, this sick leave law will only apply to their work in towns that haven’t opted out. It can be quite confusing.
The Cook County Commission for Human Rights, which is enforcing the ordinance, stated that these new rules are only focused on those who do not currently have sick leave policies. Executive Director Ranjit Hakim said that the commission will help employers come into compliance and that as long as they are doing their best, it will be fine. Essentially, employers have a grace period from the commission; however, they may not have the same reprieve from an employee denied their now-legal paid sick leave.
Frankly, a healthy workplace is a productive one. The actual costs of these ordinances to Cook County and Chicago employers remains to be seen. For now, paid sick leave is the law in Chicago and many surrounding suburbs. If you or a family member think your employer may be in violation of sick-leave laws, give us a call here at LauraLaw.
In the meantime, stay healthy!
Back in February, after finishing a Metra Pub Crawl, 28 year old Tyler Stewart got behind the wheel of his car – intoxicated – and crashed into a sedan, killing him and the sedan driver Lawrence Madigan. In a story this morning from Chicago Tribune Contact reporter John Keilman, the family of Lawrence Madigan is suing the 3 McHenry Country bars that Tyler and his group stopped at during their crawl. The family believes the bars should be held liable for the death of Madigan because, in their view, the bars are responsible for Stewart’s intoxication because they over-served him. As the family’s lawyer Jennifer Ashley alleges, “He was over served every step of the way.”
The relationship between bartenders/bar establishments and customers is a complicated one, but the establishment and bartenders share a certain responsibility to do their absolute best to make sure people aren’t going to be putting themselves or others in danger in the bar and when they leave the bar. The line between getting drunk with buddies and being over served to the point of dangerous intoxication can be a thin one, but often times there is a point where it becomes fairly easy to determine someone should not be served anymore; but i’m sure many bartenders would argue that there are many times when it’s hard to see this point. There could be further complications, though, that come from the relationship between bar owners and bartenders. In an ideal world, bar owners are putting the highest priority into ensuring safe consumption, but in reality, for a number of bars, it’s likely profit interest is the biggest priority. So bartenders who are responsible and want to ensure safe consumption might not be viewed as ideal employees by certain bar owners and safety takes a backseat priority. *This is speculative and in no way reflects what the policies of the 3 bars in question may be, since I have really no idea, but I’m just trying to establish the possible complications of the issue.* Also, a further complication is that these bars are popular bar crawl locations for the Metra pub crawl, as mentioned earlier. So, being one of these bars, it may be tougher to think of cutting off consumption or ensuring safety when you know the person is going to another bar to get plastered again. But this doesn’t mean bartenders and bar owners should ignore overconsumption as is alleged in this lawsuit.
The relationship of the bars to the pub crawl may also have influenced the bars’ differing reactions to this suit. For example, the bar that’s the first in the Pub crawl lineup may feel like they should be safely distanced from responsibility, while the last bar in the crawl may very much feel they could be in trouble here. This seems evident as Keilaman notes, “One of the bars, Finn McCool’s in Crystal Lake, denied the allegations in court papers, while another, Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, did not respond to a message left by the Tribune. But the owner of the third establishment, Peggy Kinnane’s in Arlington Heights, the alleged starting point of the Feb. 11 pub crawl, said the crash took place hours after the group had left his place, and that the tavern bore no liability.”
Derek Stanley, the owner of Peggy Kinnane’s, states that while knowing his bar is a frequent stop for pub crawls, his staff makes it a priority not to over serve, but that he can’t control customers’ transportation choices as he told the Tribune. “You’re under the assumption that they’re on the train, and at the end, they take a cab or an Uber home,” he said. “Logic would tell you that’s the right thing to do. But unfortunately, not everyone is responsible like that.” So they’re sort of shedding responsibility in a “we can’t control what happens after they leave” way, which is what you’d expect. All of this doesn’t help Lawrence Madigan’s family’s horrible loss and the understandable, and in my opinion, justified anger they hold towards both Stewart and the bar establishments. Lawrence left a real estate meeting with a client, not expecting his life to be claimed from him because of horrible irresponsibility. American culture now thankfully disparages drunk driving, but it also conflictingly somewhat celebrates a culture of alcohol consumption through endorsements, advertisements, tv shows, movies, etc. This isn’t to say drinking is wrong and that you can’t enjoy consuming alcohol while also being responsible, but to say that the beliefs surrounding alcohol in the country are complicated and at times conflict with each other. Bar crawls are one of the most popular forms of suburban entertainment as the article mentions, and why not? It’s a good time with buddies. These are naturally going to lead to consuming a decent amount of alcohol in a not-so-decent of amount of time, and then inevitably people wanting to drive home because they feel they’re fine and are completely confident in their abilities. But of course they’re drunk and certainly not as good as drivers as they think they are in the moment. Even with Ubers around, the same conversations still happen around bars/campuses/campus bars/homes throughout the country. Friends telling one friend they shouldn’t drive home, they’re too intoxicated and they should either call an Uber/Taxi, stay at their place, walk or just whatever not drive option there is. But of course the friend responds; “he’s fine, he has stuff to do the next morning, he can’t stay over, he can’t leave his car here” etc. His ability to function is tied up in it. So the friends relent, even though they know in the back of their mind that this isn’t a good idea. So he drives off under the influence and if he’s lucky he makes it home, and if he’s not lucky he hurts himself and worse someone else because of his irresponsibility and the inability to stop him.
So how does this get stopped? The police presence outside heavy drinking areas will play its part, but also it’s up to the bars too, to take the safety and responsibility of their customers into the highest priority, which is what the family of Madigan is looking for. His wife, Karaline stated, “It really, really bothers me it happened the way it did, with all the alcohol that had been consumed in that pub crawl,” she said. “Why didn’t anybody pay attention to this young man? Why didn’t the bars pay attention to this stuff?” Taverns liability caps under the Illinois Dramshop Act are set at $149,000, no small number but also a number that pales in comparison to the tragic loss of life that occurred. But to the family this is about more than the monetary compensation, this is about setting safety and liability precedents so as to hope this doesn’t happen again to others.
The article ended with talking about the Metra’s view on Pub Crawls and the Yard clubs that organize them, “A Metra spokesman said the commuter railroad doesn’t sanction pub crawls or offer any policies on how to conduct them. Scott Presslak of the Yard Social Club, which organizes several suburban train crawls, said the group encourages people to take public transportation to and from the events.Train crawls also are popular among charities. One of them, the Woodfield Area Children’s Organization, posted a flyer online for a fundraising Metra crawl that took place in March. It included a list of rules, ending with this one: “Please don’t drink and drive. Uber, Lyft and taxis are highly encouraged for your trip home.” I obviously have no easy answers. Maybe an agreement can be made between crawlers and the organizers or the first bar they attend, that car keys have to be given up for the night to be served. Maybe this throws peoples plans into a disarray, especially for the following morning, but maybe that should be part of the trade off if you’re going to be participating in this type of event. Maybe some bars do this, I don’t know but clearly these didn’t or couldn’t. Rest in peace Lawrence Madigan, and Tyler Stewart as well. Both families must be in incredible pain.
If you pay at least some attention to news you might have heard about a growing Opioid epidemic hurting the United States. Opioid addiction has surged since the 1990’s, along with fatal overdoses. Many criticisms leveled towards the NFL are about their draconian marijuana policies compared to their well, less than strict opioid policies. Based on these surges there has been a crackdown on doctors and pharmacies prescribing Opioids to their patients, even those who have had their prescription for years. Legal repercussions have increased for Doctors who are considered haphazard in the pills they give out and doctors around the country are beginning to advocate harder for pain relieving methods that aren’t Opioid based. So all good right? Well not quite, according to a recent story from Chicago Tribune Contact Reporter John Keilman. Chronic pain patients who have been prescribed to opioids for a number of years, and are physically dependent on them, feel as though they’re being left behind and unfairly demonized now that desire to stop Opioid addiction is increasing. They feel like they’re being punished for something others are abusing and to be honest I greatly empathize with them. Here’s Jim Watkins, a 59 year old Chicagoan, who suffers from a debilitating pain disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta and has been on treatment opioids for about two decades now. “(Chronic pain patients) are being singled out on a daily basis for something that other people have abused,” he said. “Those of us who have legitimate conditions, why are we being treated differently?”
There is no simple way of dealing with this issue. For legitimately treated pain patients who are physically dependent on them just deciding they can’t have anymore is a decision laden with consequences, not so much for the doctors who refuse to prescribe but for the patients who must suffer in debilitating pain while they have people judge them as if they were “junkies.” “I don’t advertise the fact that I take these medications just because of the way people look on it, like I’m a drug addict,” said a 59-year-old Lincolnwood woman who takes oxymorphone for back pain. “You mention it to someone, and it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re going to die; my cousin’s neighbor’s son died.’ They start connecting it with heroin abuse.”
On the other side a number of Doctors are advocating that Opioids are bad for these patients and don’t relieve pain effectively. Doctor Andrew Koldny states, “They’re stuck on these medicines they feel they can’t live without, and many of them may be right,” he said. “The trick is not to get more people stuck on opioids.”
While it’s fair to say that there were some incredibly shady prescriptions from “pain clinics.” the solution is not to leave millions of legitimate pain patients feeling driven to suicidal lengths. “There were more than 1,000 pain clinics operating just in Florida around 2011,” said John Temple, a West Virginia University journalism professor whose book, “American Pain,” chronicles the rise and fall of a crooked clinic. “They were all churning out these prescriptions every day. I would say the vast majority were not for legitimate patients but for people who just walked in off the street.” According to the article “OxyContin wasn’t the only painkiller to soak into American culture: Overall opioid prescriptions more than doubled over 20 years, from 112 million in 1992 to 282 million in 2012, while per-capita consumption more than quintupled.”
One factor that is stopping doctors from prescribing according to John Temple, is seeing other doctors being arrested for over prescribing. There is also the fact that it’s become tougher and more expensive to deal with insurance companies when prescribing Opioids which obviously Doctors would like not to deal with. The big problem here is that we are not dealing with people who are faking to get Opioids. We are dealing with legit patients who have been given a drug that 1) may be the only thing that works after trying numerous well documented years of other medications; and 2) a person becomes physically dependent which is different from addiction.
Now those doctors are saying no without any actual solutions for the people who now can’t get their treatment. Some doctors literally just cut off their long term pain patients which is absolutely not the standard of the oath doctors are sworn to. It’s all fine and good to say well these drugs are hurting more than helping them, well ok, what are you actually going to do for these patients now that your taking away this drug besides just leaving them writhing in pain? Sure Acupuncture has been show to be an effective pain treatment but many people can’t afford that and it’s not covered by insurance. Plus that doesn’t make people less physically dependent on the Opioids they had been using for extended period. What then? Just tell them too bad? Is this the compassion we strive for from our medical field? There aren’t easy answers but maybe a place to start would be repealing the CDC guidelines and to also start covering other non opioid pain relief treatments for the people who can’t afford them and are having trouble getting opioids now as well as
I’ll leave off on a quote from 50 year old, Oak Park resident Paula Gianfortune.
“Hurting people who need (opioids) to survive day to day is just so wrong,” she said. “You’re going to have people who are truly in pain resorting to doing illegal drugs, and good people will overdose and die. You’re going to be so desperate to get rid of the pain somehow.”