A judge ruled on 30 Jan. 2020 that a Victoria man will receive a reduced sentence for the murder of his partner because he was determined to have been in a psychotic state as a result of opioid painkillers legally prescribed to him, according to the Brisbane Times. The man will serve a 17-year prison sentence but be eligible for parole after only 14 years.
An awful crime
The murder occurred 7 July 2018, in the couple’s home in Cranbourne North and involved what appeared to be an unplanned stabbing. Following the murder, the man attempted to cover up the evidence by setting his house on fire with a cigarette lighter.
While the judge of the case made clear that the man was fully guilty of the shocking crime, that fact that it took place in the midst of a psychotic episode reduced the convicted man’s “moral culpability.” The judge did not believe that the murderer would pose a continued threat in the future, according to Warrnambool’s local newspaper The Standard.
Psychotic episodes are a rare but not unheard of side effect of Tramadol, the opioid that the man had been prescribed two years earlier to treat a knee injury. The man’s psychotic episodes may also have been intensified by his prescription for Pristiq, an antidepressant, as well as continued abuse of alcohol and cannabis while he was on all of these medications.
The family of the victim was dismayed by the lenient sentence, with the mother of the victim yelling at the murderer as he was lead out of court.
The growing opioid problem
Opioid abuse in Australia has increased significantly in recent years. According to The Associated Press, opioid-related deaths in the Australia more than doubled during a 10-year period from 2006 to 2016. As in this case, a large portion of those fatalities were connected to overdoses on – or side effects from – pills that decedents’ physicians had legally prescribed.
Some of the pharmaceutical companies that produce and distribute opioid painkillers like OxyContin, Endone and Tramadol have been held liable for the crisis in class-action lawsuits, nearly all of which ended in multimillion-dollar settlements.
A legal team you can trust
While this specific case probably does not constitute medical malpractice, because the arrested man was taking far more than his prescribed dosage mixing medication with alcohol and cannabis, issues stemming from the opioid crisis are on the rise. The lawyers at Gerard Malouf and Partners have a strong record of winning medical negligence and malpractice suits. They will treat your case with the sensitivity and respect it deserves and fight to get you financial reprieve. Get in touch with our team today.