Posts Tagged ‘Julie Eldred; Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; opioid abuse disorder;’

MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

Posted in opioids on September 20th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

A statement from Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, on the Society’s filing of an amicus brief in “The Julie Eldred Case.”

During the last several years, I have taken great professional and personal pride in the Massachusetts Medical Society’s public positions on important questions. One of these is acknowledgment of our obligation to take strong and decisive actions that we, as a delegation of physicians calling on our knowledge and ethics, determine will curtail and one day end one of our nation’s most pressing public health crises – the opioid epidemic.

Our advocacy work on this has been relentless and resolute. Therefore, we cannot, in good conscience, remain on the sidelines as a potential landmark case affecting patients who suffer from opioid abuse disorder plays out imminently in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear the case of Julie Eldred, a Massachusetts woman who suffers from opioid use disorder, and who, as part of her probation for admitting guilt on a larceny charge, was ordered to “remain substance-free and submit to random drug testing.”

Ms. Eldred, having recently started treatment, later tested positive for fentanyl, lighting a legal fuse that could have major implications on the way in which opioid abuse disorder is treated in our legal system.

At stake in this pivotal case is whether an individual can be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned because of a recurrence of a symptom; in this instance, relapse, a common symptom many with opioid use disorder experience before attaining complete abstinence.

The MMS, along with other organizations, including the Association for Behavioral Medicine, the BMC Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine and the Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy and Law, was compelled to file with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court an amicus brief (which you can read by clicking here) conveying our position.

It goes without saying that the Society neither condones nor dismisses commission of any crimes; however, we are respectfully urging the Court to recognize that opioid abuse disorder is a medically diagnosed chronic disease. Mandating an individual “guarantee relapse does not occur upon penalty of incarceration” is out of alignment with the scientific evidence that opioid abuse disorder is best addressed (with a greater level of success) as a public health issue rather than as a criminalized behavior.