Comparison in US opioid scandal unfair and cynical

What is the value of a human life? Every day this question goes to court somewhere in the world, although everyone knows there can never be an answer, always just a sad and uphill struggle. Rarely, however, has the outcome of a legal dispute been more cynical than the settlement that a good 2,000 U.S. municipalities, states, and victim representatives have now reached with pharmaceutical giant Purdue and its ex-owners, the Sackler family. . It is not just about ending the opioid scandal that has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 Americans to date. It should also create justice – and yet do the opposite.

According to the agreement, citizens who have suffered serious damage to their health as a result of their addiction – often through no fault of their own – to the highly addictive pain reliever Purdue Oxycontin will receive compensation between $ 3,500 and $ 48,000. $ 48,000 is certainly not a small amount. But can he prevail over a completely shattered life? A bruised body, the loss of your job, of your apartment? And above all: what relation between these 48,000 and the twelve to 14 billion dollars estimated that the Sacklers will find in their private accounts even after the last payment of the indemnities? While millions of former Purdue customers will grapple with the consequences of addiction and decay for the rest of their earthly lives, the ex-owner’s luxury life will only change in one way: ‘will improve further. Because with the settlement, the Sacklers are protected from further civil lawsuits for all eternity.

It was they who, from the mid-1990s, introduced Oxycontin to the market as a supposedly harmless pain reliever in conjunction with purchased doctors and pharmacists – even for minor ailments. Although some patients were only addicted to a few pills, although a black market quickly emerged and many customers eventually turned to cheaper oxycontin-related products such as heroin and fentanyl in Due to financial difficulties, the advertising campaign continued unabated.

When the opioid crisis is brought up, many in Germany still believe that the victims themselves are responsible for their plight – drug addicts, in fact. The reality is different: Opioid addiction has hit and hit middle-class families, neighbors and gym mates. She meets mothers and fathers, grandparents and grandchildren. She meets paramedics who day after day are just trying to bring people who have overdosed back to life. And she meets the Kentucky high school football team, whose players were occasionally given opioids even for minor injuries: A few years later, nearly half of the ex-teens were addicted or dead. pain. ”We could also have written: The billionaires who brought death.

Polluters will have to live with their moral guilt

The fact that most of the affected cities and states have now accepted the deal with these billionaires is only due to the fact that they were faced with a classic dilemma: On the one hand, the comparison spares those of all the people who have. cashed in for decades and ruthlessly silenced critics. On the other hand, any attempt to hold the Sacklers adequately accountable would have meant that the proceedings would have been prolonged indefinitely. It is even conceivable today that the worst solution will finally be found: because some States want to appeal, the dispute continues without a fairer outcome being guaranteed.

After all, the Sacklers will have to live with their moral guilt. But at the same time, the case is also a symbol of a failing health care system and flawed and limitless individualism. Even after 500,000 deaths, the United States remains the country where the right to self-determination is often interpreted as a license to unbridled enrichment. In which state surveillance is seen as a nod and the protection of patients as a barrier to investment – until at some point the dead are counted in the courts and freedom and self-determination are compensated. Against the value of a life.

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