Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Drug Induced Homicide?

Is a death from the use of illicit drugs (or the “misuse” of licit drugs) an accident or “drug-induced homicide”?

We discussed that question this morning during case conferences (our replacement for inquests). If an adult chooses to obtain drugs from another and voluntarily uses, ingests or injects them, is their death “at the hands of another”?

The State of Illinois has a dug-induced homicide statute that holds that if an individual sells to or gives to an individual drugs (illicit or licit) that result in their death the individual who “delivers” the drugs can be found guilty of homicide. I realize that this was passed into law to give law enforcement another tool to get the “bad guys” (purveyors in drugs), but does it really make sense. It certainly does make sense in cases where an individual cannot make an informed decision about participating (too young or too impaired for any of a variety of reasons) or if the offending individual actually administers the drug to the other, but does it make sense in all cases?

An individual makes a series of choices that result in their use of drugs: the decision to seek the drugs, the decision to obtain the drugs (knowing that the quality cannot be vouched for), and the decision to use the drugs, by this don’t they accept culpability?

It is certainly “wrong” to use illicit drugs and misuse licit drugs, but is it homicide at the hands of another?

Most overdoses are an accident (as opposed to intentional): using too much, using stuff that is purer than what you are used to, using after a period of abstinence, mixing what should not be mixed (the problem of synergy), using what you think is one thing and it is another, using when your health isn’t up to the use, and sometimes things just happen.

I don’t know the answers, we just take it case by case, individual by individual.

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