A 30-year-old East Butler woman has been charged with aggravated assault on an unborn child after overdosing on heroin while seven months pregnant. The baby was born a day after the overdose and is now on life support with "lasting injuries," according to police.
The woman had been in jail for much of her pregnancy on charges of retail theft. When she was released, she was prescribed Narcan, a drug that counteracts the effects of heroin overdose, presumably because she was thought to be at serious risk of overdose. However, when police and paramedics found her, no one administered the drug. She was apparently misdiagnosed as suffering from a seizure or another type of serious injury. Paramedics apparently told police she had a closed head wound. In fact, she wasn't treated for overdose until a blood test was given at a Pittsburgh hospital and revealed the presence of the drug in her system.
The woman apparently later told police that she had used heroin she found under a couch.
Her boyfriend and the father of her infant and 6-year-old daughter, initially denied any drug activity. However, when police brought him in for a urine test that was positive, he admitted using heroin, as well. He has not been charged with a crime.
If the woman is convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Perhaps because of the opioid epidemic, there is a climate of fear surrounding drug addiction. If this young woman was prescribed Narcan, she must have had a prior history of serious addiction, which is a disease. The fact that emergency medical responders did not recognize her symptoms as those of an overdose is also troubling. It seems the young woman is being held criminally responsible for the effects of a medical condition and also for the mistakes of trained medical personnel.
It's often tempting to try to shut down troubling behavior by pressing ever more serious charges. Unfortunately, illness does not yield to force. If you have been charged with a crime due to drug use or addiction, don't hesitate to reach out to a criminal defense attorney. There are options available that can help with both your addiction and with your criminal case.