Massachusetts Medical Society: MMS Releases Statement Regarding Amicus Brief in Commonwealth v. Julie Eldred

MMS Releases Statement Regarding Amicus Brief in Commonwealth v. Julie Eldred

The following is a statement from the Massachusetts Medical Society regarding the amicus brief submitted to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Commonwealth v. Julie Eldred:

“By submitting this amicus brief, the Massachusetts Medical Society urges the Court to take an evidence-based approach to its treatment of individuals living with opioid use disorder. There is a clear scientific consensus throughout the medical community that opioid use disorder is a chronic condition, and that relapse is a symptom of that disorder.

“As a common – almost inevitable – feature of opioid use disorder, relapse should not be characterized or treated as an individual choice or failing and should not be the basis of incarceration. Indeed, most patients experience several recurrences before achieving complete abstinence, and a person can remain at increased risk of relapse for many years.

“Because of this, the requirement that the defendant ‘remain drug free’ in order to avoid incarceration is clinically unrealistic – and in fact, evidence suggests that such a requirement could actually aggravate a relapse as a response to stress. A more-appropriate response to the defendant’s medical status would have been treatment of her opioid use disorder using an evidence-based approach, including medication-assisted treatment.

“Punishing individuals on the basis of relapse, a symptom of opioid use disorder – rather than for specific activities committed while suffering a relapse – undermines both individual and public health and wrongly condemns patients for living with a chronic disease.

“To be clear, the Massachusetts Medical Society does not condone the commission of a crime. With the filing of the amicus brief, we are asking the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to recognize that taking a punitive approach to relapse is not in the best interests of the people of Massachusetts, all of whom deserve empathetic, evidence-based approaches to care.”

The amicus brief can be found here.

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