Jay, ‘journalism’ and health care
By now you’ve likely heard that Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup has issued an autopsy report that concludes that Jay Bennett’s death was the result of an accidental overdose of pain medication. As I watched this news spread around the internet, I was fairly astonished by how under-reported, and at times downright misleading, the coverage was. So let’s get a few facts straight:
Jay had a long history of chronic hip pain. Jay’s health insurance would not cover his hip injury. From the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette: “The coroner said toxicology tests confirm that Mr. Bennett died from Fentanyl intoxication. Fentanyl is a pain killer found in Duragesic patches. Mr. Bennett had one of those patches on his back when found, Northrup said.” The Duragesic patch has a somewhat unbelievable history — In 2004, it was recalled twice. In 2006, according to the New York Times, a court held patch-maker Johnson & Johnson responsible for the death of a Texas woman who died (of an accidental overdose) from a Duragesic patch that leaked. And again in another case in 2007. And yet again in 2008! 2008 also saw another recall of the patch. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory that stated “Despite issuing an advisory in July 2005 that emphasized the safe use of the fentanyl patch, FDA continues to receive reports of death and life-threatening side effects in patients who use the fentanyl patch.”
I have no idea whether Jay had a defective patch. But I do know two things, the first related to journalism, the second to health care:
1) Jay wasn’t just another rockstar who OD’d. I was stunned to see this stated outright in an article in E Online. And was hugely hugely disappointed to see it implied in Jim DeRogatis’ story. I like DeRogatis, but that piece borders on irresponsibility. Coverage around the net was a bit better, but generally I’d see huge OVERDOSE headlines, with little mention of the controversy surrounding the Duragesic patch.
2) Jay would be alive today if enormous pharmaceutical and insurance corporations were not controlling our health care industry. There are plenty of people better informed and more articulate than I who are writing and organizing around this issue and I intend to get better informed. But in the meantime, the folks at the really terrific Future of Music Coalition have collected a bunch of really helpful resources for musicians who need health insurance.
But let’s on a warmer note. Rob Roberge, at Caught in the Carousel recently published a very kind remembrance. And this performance, from the film “Man In The Sand” about the making of Mermaid Avenue takes on new heartbreaking meanings: