The Kennedy family never fails to produce bizarre events. In the spotlight today is Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, who is on trial for driving – and crashing – her car under the influence of Ambien.
News articles have been focusing today on her rather out-of-place injections of family history into her testimony: who her father was, the fact he had been “the attorney general during the civil rights movement” and “killed while running for president,” (source) that she is one of ten children, that she was raised by a single mother, and…
How is this possibly relevant? And her lawyer has the balls to say ‘“She is not seeking any advantage because of her family, but she should not be punished because of that family.”
Then why is she repeatedly talking about her family?
But there’s a more relevant issue going on at this trial as well: what sort of responsibility should people taking legally proscribed medications be held to?
Kennedy claims she meant to take a medication for a thyroid condition but took the Ambien by mistake. Both the bottles and the pills look similar although not identical. She claims she remembers nothing after getting onto the freeway.
Both her and her lawyer insist it was an accident, and if she realized her mistake she never would have gotten behind the wheel.
Ambien is known for causing blackouts as well as sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving, etc., so the scenario is not entirely unreasonable. However, some people take Ambien to get high off of it, (source) which would certainly be the reason if she deliberately took it in the morning.
Oh, did I mention her cousin Patrick Kennedy used the same defense in a crash in 2006?
Responsibility for Prescriptions
Let’s presume she’s telling the truth. If she’s lying, her guilt is obvious.
Ambien is powerful. That’s fairly well-known, and it certainly should be known to the Kennedy family. I know if I had a cousin with such an experience, I would be hesitant in even taking the stuff.
There’s a reason we need prescriptions for these medications: they’re dangerous in any number of different ways. Used correctly, they absolutely improve people’s quality of life and sometimes even survival. But they aren’t toys.
I’ve had similar looking pills before. I make damn sure I’m taking the right one before swallowing. She says she took it at breakfast after she made herself a cappuccino that takes 15-20 steps to make. Sweetheart, get a more simple machine. Also, if making a drink leaves you that distracted, you need adult supervision.
What she’s really saying is she was too busy to be careful, and at some point carelessness becomes negligence.
I sometimes juggle large number of pills both over the counter and prescription. I just cleaned out the medication cabinet and found a half-dozen expired prescriptions, which I threw out or flushed. I don’t even recall what some of them are for, in part because they’re all labeled by generic names. Seriously, what the hell did I take this for?
(I also threw out expired over-the-counter products, including a box of Alka-Seltzer that expired in 2002, which makes it older than both my marriage and my master’s degree. That I can blame on my husband. Also, did you now Band-Aids can go bad? OMG, they can stink bad enough people around you might notice.)
Yes, my medical situation is that complicated. Much of it has to do with complications of the fibromyalgia: digestive issues, concentration issues (what we call fibro-fog), depression, drug sensitivities (which has required us to fairly regularly find alternatives to previously useful drugs) Some past medications were given for my pain and weakness before we diagnosed the fibro: painkillers, muscle relaxers, and probably more than I don’t remember, none of which work with fibro pain.
Rolling a 1 on Health Checks
If you’re not a role-player, ignore the sub-title. But the role-players will know what I mean.
Periodically, my body just spectacularly fails. There’s no underlying condition. I have no immune deficiency, for example, and we’ve certainly checked. My health just periodically tells me to piss off and goes on vacation. Ever been so sick you couldn’t even swallow water without throwing it up? Been there. Ever gone from “slightly scratchy throat” to “I don’t want to lift my head from this table” in four hours? I don’t recommend it. Did you know they make cough syrup that includes Vicodin? Me neither: the coughing caused enough pain that the pain triggered more coughing. Cough syrup alone had done nothing.
Currently I have 3 pills in the morning and 4 at night. My answer to that is a pill caddy where I can segregate daily doses. After my mother’s stroke, she had something like 10 different medications taken at all different times during the day, and we got a caddy that had each day divided into four compartments for breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime.
For medications taken “as needed,” we’ve kept logs to avoid overdose.
I’ve also marked certain prescription bottles in Sharpie reminding me what they’re for. That would have solved Kennedy’s confusion issue.
That’s how you take control of medications.
Knock You on Your Butt Medications
I also have medications that “knock me on my butt,” to paraphrase a doctor. They are taken at night. I did have a moment once when I almost took one in the morning, but had I not caught it in time, I would have called in sick. Absolutely. Because it knocks me on my butt.
Ambien is fast acting. Even if Kennedy didn’t realize she had taken it, she would have felt the effects soon. Just because she can’t remember that time now doesn’t mean she wasn’t aware then. And if the drug really zones you out to the point you can never notice, then you should be damn sure what you’re doing when you take your meds.
And then, of course, there really is the question of whether it was accidental at all.