Opioid crackdown hurting Chronic pain patients

PainPills-1If 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.”

 

Cook County to Relax Policy on Traffic Offenses

I love how the building support (the pylons) are on the outside.Some shifts in Cook County traffic policy under recently elected States Attorney Kim Foxx will be occurring as detailed by Chicago Tribune contact reporter Megan Crepeau in an article this morning. Certain traffic offenses will now not be prosecuted by the States Attorney’s office, leaving the prosecution decisions to local municipalities. The traffic offenses that will no longer be prosecuted by Cook County involve charges where a person is driving on a suspended or revoked license – where that license has been revoked for financial reasons rather than more serious reasons such as DUI or Reckless Homicide. As Crepeau writes, those financial reasons usually include failure to pay child support, tolls, or parking tickets. This does not mean that those charges will automatically be dropped, but that the individual towns will now have the option of whether they want to pursue them. The reason cited for this change was less ideological and more about a lack of resources, especially man/woman power. This was clear from Crepeau’s interview with Eric Sussman, the first Assistant States Attorney, wherein he said that “the shift represents a reshuffling of increasingly scarce resources, . . . noting that the number of assistant state’s attorneys in the county has plunged in the past 10 years. That means each prosecutor’s caseload far exceeds what experts suggest, . . . citing a recommendation that assistant state’s attorneys handling misdemeanors should have about 400 cases apiece. In Cook County, that number is closer to 5,700.”

Sussman heavily indicates that in working with law enforcement and talking about these changes, they stressed these financial reasons rather than disagreement with the laws themselves. “So far at least, it makes it easier for law enforcement to understand we’re not doing this because we disagree with the law or have a philosophical problem with the way the law is set up,” Sussman said. “I think that a lot of this came as news to a lot of law enforcement agencies that we are as resource-constrained.” However even though it’s clear lack of resources appear to be the big reason here, it should be mentioned that Kim Foxx’s record since taking office has included heavy efforts to change how Illinois deals with low level nonviolent offenders so as to both make sure precious resources are allocated to more important things, and that citizens aren’t severely punished for minor crimes.

The article went over this as well:  “The move comes as State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, elected in November, has pushed in other ways to change how her office handles low-level, nonviolent cases. In December, she dramatically raised the bar for felony charges related to shoplifting. And this week, she said that prosecutors could recommend that judges release non-violent defendants charged with low-level crimes without any cash bail, pending the resolution of their cases.” So there’s no doubt finances are playing a huge role in these new policies but Foxx has also shown a focus to change the way that low level offenders in Chicago are punished in general. Those reasons no doubt include humanitarian ones as well.

Rahm Emanuel in DC to advocate graduation requirement ideas

wslideshow1

Rahm Emanuel’s trip to Washington D.C. was detailed this morning in the Chicago Tribunes “Morning Spin” section. Emanuel is actually giving a speech as I write this billed as “Moving forward in Chicago.” The speeches main purpose is so Emmanuel can advocate his recent idea for education reform: Requiring that High School diploma seekers prove that they have been accepted into a College, military, or “gap year” program before they are given diplomas. The event is being live streamed on the National Press Clubs website, and the events organizers were taking potential questions emailed into Emmanuel until about 9 A.M. that Emanuel will supposedly answer. After this event, Emanuel will head to Montreal for the world congress. There is some controversy over Emanuel’s plan, especially in how it will affect at risk children for who getting into an after high school program might be out of their control. Emanuel’s administration is focused on seeing College graduation among CPS students increase, and that they have a plan for the future. However some education experts question how this will affect not only students but also the City colleges that with this new rule could see large influxes of students who need monetary support to attend. City colleges as it is now have trouble with funding so there will be need to be more hiring and funding.

The Verdict is In: Guilty

justice-387213_960_720

 

In an unprecedented move, a Massachusetts judge decided that Michelle Carter is guilty of manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. In his decision, Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz said that Michelle admitted that she did not call the police or his parents when he was dying in the truck “and finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: Get out of the truck.” Judge Moniz also described Ms. Carter’s conduct as immoral.

First, let’s go over the case. Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III were dating in 2014; Michelle was 17 and Conrad 18. Like most teenage couples, they texted each other about everything. At some point, though, they started talking about Conrad’s suicidal thoughts. In a series of detailed text messages, Conrad and Michelle discuss when and how Conrad is going to commit suicide. They even talked about getting a portable generator that emitted carbon monoxide, which is eventually how he killed himself. Conrad committed suicide on July 12, 2014 in a parking lot. Later, Michelle’s texts to Conrad encouraging him to do it (“You just need to do it Conrad or I’m gonna get you help” and “if you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it”) came to light.

There is no question that this was a tragedy for all involved, especially Mr. Roy, his family and friends. However, this brings up a lot of questions that may change the course of criminal liability. Can someone be held legally responsible for someone else’s suicide? If someone knows that another individual plans to commit suicide, or is with them when they choose to do so, what duty do they have to call the police? Should words have been enough to convict Ms. Carter of involuntary manslaughter? The answer, frankly, is yes.

Let’s look at what the law currently says about suicide. Usually, it is considered an act of free will by the individual committing it, and Massachusetts does not have a law against encouraging suicide. However, Judge Moniz said he based his decision on Michelle’s actions after Conrad first got into the car. Conrad called Michelle while he was in the car and told her that he was having doubts. According to the prosecutor, Michelle convinced him to get back into the car and keep going with the suicide. In Judge Moriz’s eyes, Conrad “[broke] that chain of self-causation by exiting the vehicle . . . This court finds that instructing Mr. Roy to get back in the truck constituted wanton and reckless conduct, by Ms. Carter creating situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to Mr. Roy.”

Ms. Carter knew Conrad wanted to die. She knew when and she knew how. She spoke to him while he was in the car with the carbon monoxide running and convinced him to get back in, which she knew would probably kill him. Physically she wasn’t present, but mentally and emotionally she was guiding Conrad’s hand the entire time. Her conduct went beyond careless or harsh words to a high school boyfriend. Ms. Roy intentionally encouraged Conrad to commit suicide, knowing how much influence she had. She did not stop him and she did not call for help, even though she had a duty to do so.

From the legal perspective, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, result from this case. On a personal level, suicide is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. If you, a friend, or a loved one needs help, LauraLaw suggests a few resources:

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

UIC Counseling Center

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

 

. . . Community Service?

rooftop-691617_960_720  Chicagoans walking around the Loop might catch a free show when they pass the Metropolitan Correctional Center. If you are walking with children, though, watch out: these shows may not be G-rated.

Across the street, women will stand on the top floor of the parking garage and perform shows for the detainees. The jailhouse audience flickers the lights on and off to show their appreciation. Many of the women are girlfriends or partners of the detainees, and one source said that the detainees themselves arrange the shows to demonstrate their power in jail.
The first question that comes to mind is: Why hasn’t the jail done anything about this? Public indecency, which includes a “lewd exposure of the body” is still a crime in Illinois.

Well, the parking garage is private property and is not owned or controlled by Metropolitan Correctional Center. So, even though the federal Bureau of Prisons is well aware of what is going on, prison authorities cannot do anything beyond reporting the shows to the parking garage owners. And, according to attorneys who work in the nearby Monadnock Building, this has been going on for decades.

To be fair, not all of the shows include nudity or dancing. On some occasions, family and friends of detainees can be seen holding up messages and signs, waving and cheering them on.
Most people opt to visit or send food and other gifts to loved ones in jail, so arranging strip shows on top of garage buildings is unconventional. At LauraLaw, we’d prefer you choose the former but if you find yourself in legal trouble, contact us at LauraLaw to discuss your options.

Uber Trouble

 

19588717540_9d9224d888_b

            The ride-share company Uber is in some – pardon the pun – Uber trouble. Over 20 people were fired after an investigation into harassment claims at the company. Perkins Coie, LLP, the law firm investigating the claims, continues to review about 215 Human Resources claims. An undisclosed number of employees have been fired, 31 employees are in training or counseling, and 7 received written warnings from Uber. Uber has also commissioned a separate investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Uber has had its share of controversy over the last year. In a blog post titled, “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber, former employee Susan Fowler blogged about widespread sexual harassment, and about how her complaints to HR were ignored. A video surfaced of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick yelling at an Uber driver. Kalanick has since taken steps to build leadership in the company and hired a search firm to find a chief operating officer. Uber brought in two outside senior executives, both women, to work specifically on leadership and strategy within the company. In addition, Kalanick asked for the resignation of the head of software engineering, Amit Singhal, after a sexual harassment claim at his previous employer came to light. Singhal denied the claims.

This controversy is part of the larger issue of Silicon Valley’s “male dominated culture” Twitter, Google, and other Silicon Valley giants have been accused of poor treatment of women in the workplace. There have been multiple allegations, including those of Ms. Fowler, of male managers propositioning their female co-workers without repercussion. In a very public lawsuit, Ellen Pao sued Kleiner Perkins (a venture capital firm) for gender-discrimination. Ms. Pao lost in court, but the lawsuit prompted a lot of discussion about gender diversity in Silicon Valley. Investigation continues, but Uber certainly has a long road ahead.

If you are going through administrative proceedings or were wrongfully terminated, contact us at LauraLaw to discuss your legal options.

The Tiger Woods DUI Refresher Course

130905-F-VJ538-039

 

 

Most people arrested for a DUI do not wake up the next morning to see their dashcam video all over the news. However, if you are Tiger Woods that is exactly what happens. The championship golfer was arrested last weekend in Florida. Some of the dashcam footage, released by the Florida Jupiter Police Department, shows Mr. Woods standing on the side of the road with two police officers beside him.

One clip shows the officers asking him if he had anything to drink or if he took any medication. Another clip, an officer is waving a light in front of Mr. Woods face and asking him to follow the light. Later, the officer asks him to put his hand behind his back and arrests him. It was reported that he took a breathalyzer test and blew a 0.000.

Since this incident was so widely reported, LauraLaw thought this is a good time to review DUI law. Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to drink and drive – call a friend, take public transportation, or call a taxi/rideshare. However, if you do find yourself in this situation, here are a few things to remember:

1. Carefully and safely pull over to the side of the road. Many people get alarmed when they realize they are about to be pulled over, but don’t panic.

2. You can refuse to take a Field Sobriety Test. If you are asked to take a Field Sobriety Test, you can clearly state that you do not wish to do so.

3. You can refuse to take a breathalyzer. If you are asked to take a breath test, you can clearly state that you do not wish to do so.

4. If you are arrested and charged with a DUI, do not wait to seek out legal representation. Changes in Illinois law led to stricter penalties and punishments for driving under the influence. You may be at risk of suspension, or in some cases, revocation of your driver’s license.

Be safe out on the road, and if you do find yourself in this situation, contact LauraLaw to discuss your legal needs.

Honor Our Veterans!

We here at Lauralaw wish to thank all our current service members and all veterans of past wars and conflicts, and those who gave their lives for America, for their incredible service to our country. We honor their service to the ideals that built this country. It is important to remember that this holiday is not about barbeques, three day weekends, or blowout  closeout sales, but about thanking those who have served, often at the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we often take for granted. So please take the time out of your celebrations of the unofficial start of summer to thank our Veterans!

Image courtesy of nirots/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of nirots/freedigitalphotos.net

Victims of Sexual Assault Face Struggle Against School and courts

constitutionIn an important report from the Associated Press, Michelle R. Smith, Reese Dunklin, and Emily Scmall detail the horrible struggles student victims of sexual assault from other students have gone through to get justice. One of the barriers to justice is the schools themselves and the administrations that are more worried about protecting the institution from outside criticism, than seeking justice and protecting victims of sexual assault as Smith explains, “The barriers are formidable, and can lead to long, grueling fights: Public schools in many states enjoy powerful shields, including caps on damages and high legal hurdles to prove misconduct. And a handful of states offer schools complete immunity from lawsuits in state court.” One of the main cases detailed in the report shows this. According to Smith, “A Miami mother sued in 2012 after she said her second-grader was repeatedly abused by an older boy at his charter school. Eventually, the 7-year-old tried to kill himself by walking into traffic with his eyes closed, according to the family’s lawsuit. Two years later, the little boy testified, he still had nightmares his tormenter would crawl in through his bedroom window and kill his mother. His mother came to believe the school put its reputation above her son’s well-being. “You can’t protect the institution and forget about the students,” she said.” The Miami mother( name anonymous for protection) is exactly right and it’s especially heartbreaking to see young children mentally and physically tortured, have to deal with this stuff while the school that is supposedly supposed to protect them just see the kids as pressure and would rather protect the perpetrator and their own reputation.

The mother and her son would eventually have to take them to court to sue, another mentally debilitating and costly expense for families. The details of the story are incredibly graphic so proceed at your own caution. “According to her lawsuit, an 11-year-old boy forced him to perform oral sex in a transport van. The mother said she reported it to the school, which promised to monitor the older boy. Later, he cornered the second-grader twice in a school bathroom, again forcing him to perform oral sex, the lawsuit said. In a videotaped deposition played at the 2014 trial, the boy described feeling the abuse “would happen again and again.” He said the smell of a school bathroom still triggered painful memories, leaving him feeling “very nervous, very upset, very scared.” The school replied that it took reasonable measures to keep the students away from each other, but in light of testimony this is a ridiculously offensive assertion.

As mentioned earlier many of the issues with school reactions are rooted in the complicated burden of proofs and ridiculous cap limits on the amounts that can be rewarded that provide the schools with legal shields as Smith calls them. These sometimes differ from state to state. For example Virginia, and Georgia give their schools an all encompassing immunity from state law suits. Illinois requires that the plaintiff must prove the school was actually demonstrating willful conduct to hurt the child’s ability to attend school rather than just having to prove negligence, and Tennessee doesn’t even allow plaintiffs a jury trial but instead a single judge who is usually incentivized to side with the government. Here’s some more details about the legal difficulties victims go through. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that all public school districts can be held liable under Title IX. Victims of sexual assault or harassment must show that school officials with the power to act were deliberately indifferent to known sexual harassment, and that the harassment was so bad it effectively barred a student’s access to an education. That means victims who might find it difficult to sue in state court can often seek justice in federal court, though that’s not necessarily easier.” Many of these suits take years and a lot of money to conduct and victims priorities are many times put behind the priorities of states making sure they don’t look bad or lose much money. Though one advantage to suing in federal court as the report explains is that the case is not in the community which might pressure the victim into remaining silent.

The victims themselves who courageously testify about the horrors want to explain that they not only do it for themselves but also for others and helping to prevent these kinds of things from happening to other students who schools don’t want to protect. “One of the things that kept him going – he didn’t want it to happen to someone else,” Heiss said. That’s often the main motivator to sue, said Adele Kimmel, who specializes in student abuse cases for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit law firm Public Justice. Settlement agreements can require anti-bullying training in addition to money – or sometimes instead of it.” The mother of the victim in Florida says that being able to testify allowed her son to feel vindicated. “It seemed like he was vindicated simply by saying, ‘This happened. It hurt me. I’m still here.”‘ It’s a testament to the courage of the victims and their families that they wish to see change not just for their own situations but to help others. Let’s not fail them

Friday Frolic Away

Air bnb

If you have traveled anytime in the last 5 years, within the United States or internationally, chances are you have used some kind of home-share website. Sites like Airbnb and HomeAway offer users a chance to experience a city like a local by renting out a private home or apartment. These sites have become quite successful over the last 5 years.

Success isn’t without its problems, however. Landlords and rental management companies across Chicago started to restrict tenants’ abilities rent out their places on home-sharing websites. An official shared-housing ordinance followed to officially impose stricter rules on these sites. The ordinance, passed last summer, imposes a surcharge “and the rate of four percent of the gross rental or leasing charge”, establishment of license fees, and lists specific definitions of a hotel and a bed-and-breakfast establishment. Registration of shared housing units is also required and there is a limit on number of units that can be rented out in a building.

Usually the companies work with large cities like Chicago to draft the city ordinances, but after months of discussions they did not reach an agreement. HomeAway filed suit the U. S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that ordinance violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. City of Chicago Law Department spokeman, Bill McCaffrey says that the ordinance “enables the city to monitor rental activity and take action against hosts who commit violations.”

This author personally knows many people who have used home-sharing sites when visiting other cities or have hosted travelers themselves. For some, these sites provide a cheaper and more meaningful travel experience than the routine downtown hotel. Rental companies, individual landlords and tenants who rent out their properties can earn extra money and put unused space to good use. Unfortunately, extra taxes and registration fees may deter travelers and hosts from using the home-share platform.

Whether traveling to a stranger’s quaint walk-up or staying right here in town, we at LauraLaw wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!