Leading medical experts testify that in-utero opioid exposure causes birth defects
(CLEVELAND, OHIO) Attorneys representing America’s most innocent victims in the nation’s prescription opioid crisis took a significant step today within the Multi-District Litigation before Judge Daniel Polster in Cleveland, Ohio by seeking class certification of the guardians responsible for children injured by in-utero exposure to opioids and diagnosed with Neo-Natal Abstinence System or drug dependence.
States, cities, municipalities, hospitals and Native Americans have already gained such class certification status. Those classes do not include guardians of children who were born with Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome or drug dependent.
This would be the first-time children diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, due to the opioid use of their birth mothers, would finally have redress of the lifelong physical and development disabilities and defects these children do and will experience, said Attorney Scott Bickford.
Mr. Bickford, who has argued on behalf of children with NAS for nearly two years before Judge Polster, said his team is being expanded by the legal expertise of Marc Dann, the former Attorney General of Ohio, and class-action experts Kelly and Tom Bilek.
“These children are the most vulnerable and blameless victims of the opioid crisis and will need lifelong medical monitoring and surveillance, as well as medical and social support services,” said Mr. Dann.
“This generation of children is not yet lost but will be without substantial intervention. For two years, their needs have been subordinated to the less urgent needs of government entities which do not have the legal ability to bring claims for these children, do not owe the duty of care to them and will never guarantee their on-going needs are met. Nevertheless, the child’s guardian will surely face and bear the fiduciary responsibility,” Dann added.
The legal filing, with supporting evidence from leading medical experts in the areas of NAS and the scientific relationship between in-utero opioid exposure and birth defects, puts forth studies and testimony to support these arguments, making these main points:
· The nation is vastly undercounting the number of NAS babies, and data shows the number of babies with NAS babies born in the U.S.--now estimated at one every 15 minutes by the Centers for Disease Control– are far greater than the official government count because of flaws in how this information is gathered.
· Babies are sent home from hospitals to guardians with little awareness of what the child and caregiver will face. While physical deformities may be evident when a baby is born, the growing medical science in the NAS area shows opioid exposure in the womb impacts brain size and development which results in long-term developmental effects such delays in walking, talking, hyperactivity, impulsive behaviors, aggression, learning disabilities and other problems which won’t demonstrate until the child ages.
· Governments, schools and other institutions don’t understand the needs of these children because there is no registry of babies with NAS. Thus, families have no roadmap for the challenges ahead. Such a map can only be provided by establishing a registry and providing long-term medical monitoring and research. “This will allow for the program to reach out to the impacted families at the appropriate times,” wrote West Virginia Dr. Charles Werntz III, and also help identify the most hard-hit regions.
Certification of a nationwide class of guardians of NAS children must occur in 2020, the attorneys argue in today's filing on behalf of families in 34 state class actions. This is underscored by the fact that nationwide, one of every five pregnant women on Medicaid has been prescribed opioids, the filing claims.
“In addition to medical monitoring claims to the guardian, plaintiffs seek to ensure that money needed to pay for testing and epidemiology is actually spent for the direct benefit of children born with NAS. More urgently, intervention and education of doctors and women of child-bearing age is required to immediately stop the possibility of more such births by educating them and the public that opioids cannot be used during pregnancy,” said Mr. Dann.
The link to the filing and supportive statements is here: