In follow up of a recent post I did Breast Feeding Mom on PRESCRIBED Methodone Charged with Murder , another interesting court opinion hit this week.
A Superior Court panel ruled that Pennsylvania cannot criminalize pre-natal acts that put a baby’s life in jeopardy. In this case, a pregnant woman overdosed on opioids and the Superior Court rejected the charges of assualt filed against Kasey Rose Dischman.
Dischman had a heart attack while thirty weeks pregnant purportedly as result of an overdose. The baby was delivered premmaturely as a result. Prosecutors in Butler County dropped a myriad of charges against the mother, which were dismissed this week by a panel of superior court judges.
Judge William Shaffer dismissed charge after charge, believing that although Dischman is accused of committing a “senseless, selfish and heinous act,” the law does not allow the aggravated assault count to be applied in cases where the victim is the mother’s own unborn child. CITATION
With the massive overreach of judicial and prosecutorial authority in opioid fatality cases (i.e. charging dealers with murder), it seems that the Butler Judge got it right.
This case precedent should pose a challenge to the Bucks County District Attorney who has filed homecide charges against two mothers in recent months. The first set of charges were against a mother breastfeeding whose child died as a result of methadone overdose. The methadone was prescribed, and she was never told by treating doctors not to take the drug or that the drug could cause any complications if she breastfed. In fact, her lawyer noted that her treating doctors actually encouraged her to breast feed.
The second case involved a mother who put vicodin in her toddler’s sippy cup, and toddler died of opioid overdose (intentional poisoning). In this case, I thought the murder charges were fair. Who does that? Who poisons baby with Vicodin intentionally.
Pennsylvania lawmakers need to fine tune the language around these opioid laws, as we are seeing prosecutors further expand the meaning of these laws, and more and more people charged with “murder” or “assault” due to increasingly wide interpretation of the language.
While intentional drug delivery resulting in death can be charged as murder in Pennsylvania, I have been outspoken in my objection to charging dealers with homicide. It clogs up our courts and jails, and eliminates any and all personal responsibility for the individual decedent who ingested the drugs at their own free will. These laws are getting further and further abused as the meaning of unclearly written language is expanded by overzealous prosecutors hungry to make news for themselves.