Wisdom from a lawyer and bereaved father
Bill Ebben’s son Tim died of a fentanyl overdose on February 10, 2017. Since then, Bill has thought long and hard about why his son died. To be blunt, he thinks his son was killed by the War on Drugs, not some drug dealer.
Bill is a lawyer, businessman and former special education teacher who lives in West Chester, near Cincinnati. He started a web site after his son’s death: endthewarondrugs.org.
Last week, we asked Bill one of the hardest, most personal questions you can ask a parent who’s lost a child to drug overdose: Should the dealer who sold the drugs that killed your son be prosecuted for murder?
Here”s what Bill wrote back:
Let me put this delicately. These laws are stupid.
When Tim died, I got his smartphone. I’m sure that the phone number of his dealer was among the last three or four calls he made. I did not turn that information over to the police and I don’t blame the drug dealer.
It’s the laws we already have, the War on Drugs, that killed Tim and 175 Americans every day. The laws of the War on Drugs created the black market for drugs. There would be no dealers if drugs could be purchased legally (and safely).
I hear talk all the time about these drug dealers who are just trying to kill as many people as they can. That is profoundly stupid. A drug dealer is a businessman. Any good businessman will tell you that it’s much cheaper to keep a regular customer than to get new ones. This is especially true in the black market drug trade because a dealer’s most exposed behavior is when trying to develop new customers.
“I did not turn information over to the police and I don’t blame the drug dealer.”
Most drug dealers are in that business because they are addicts and the War on Drugs precludes them getting a job that pays enough to support their family and their habit.
The drug dealers would love to have the ability to send a sample of their latest batch for laboratory analysis. They want to keep their loyal customer base happy. I know that drug dealers often warn their customers if they have reason to believe their current product is unusually potent but, with the advent of fentanyl and carfentanyl, it’s nearly impossible to be cautious enough.
Drug-Induced homicide laws are just more of the same flawed thinking that leads people to think that punishment is the best way to deal with a medical and social problem. If punishment is the goal, then the War on Drugs and drug-induced homicide laws are the way to go. But look around at how we live. Ask yourself if we are getting enough benefit from punishing Americans with a medical problem to justify living with high rates of property crime, costly incarceration, costly adjudication, collapsing neighborhoods and destroyed families.
Because of a car accident 15 years ago, I take a stimulant every morning to make my brain functionally awake. I take it again at night so my brain can go through the normal process of sleep that everyone else takes for granted.
I need these drugs to function. I am not an addict. I’ve never had an addiction in my life. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke. But because of the War on Drugs, I endure severe hassles every month picking up these prescriptions at the pharmacy.
This is the same War on Drugs that killed my son. Tim was a musician, an avid backpacker, a Cisco Certified Network Engineer earning more than $90,000 a year and – most importantly – a wonderful human being. In his thirties, he had knee surgery and got addicted to opioids. He got pushed into the black market for opioids, a place where even a smart person has no idea what he’s getting and that’s what killed him.
“I would rather have a son who is dealing with an addiction for the rest of his life than a dead son.”
Blame the dealer? Ridiculous. If one dealer didn’t have what Tim wanted, he would have gone to a second, third or fourth. If Starbucks is closed, you go to another coffee shop; you don’t stop drinking coffee!
It’s the War on Drugs that is the problem. Legalizing all drugs is not a magic wand. There will still be addicts. But we don’t have to live this way!
I would rather have a son who is dealing with an addiction for the rest of his life than a dead son. I miss my son. The War on Drugs killed him, not some random drug dealer.
Sorry for the rant. I could go on for hours.
After we posted this article, Bill Ebben sent me an email that said, in part:
“I’m having a tough day. I’m still working my way through boxes of paperwork that Tim left. As the administrator of his estate, I have to make sure that everything is accounted for. Sometimes I can do this for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s much less.
“This morning, as I was going through a box, I came upon a manila envelope from Methodist Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. I didn’t have to open it. I knew immediately that it was Tim’s birth certificate. It has a baby’s footprint in ink like a fingerprint.
“I know this from memory. I never opened that envelope. I just put it the stack of records that I will preserve. I was done going through Tim’s paperwork for the rest of the day. I melted into a sobbing mess. I miss my Tim.”
I think that is beautiful writing.
— dennis cauchon, president, Harm Reduction Ohio
I lost my son to drugs Sept. 2017. I just find it selfish to say I would rather have a son as an addict than a dead son. I must my son so bad my life will never be easy or the same ever again. The only thing I can hang on to is HE is not struggling anymore. Now your son sounds like the perfect son that only needed a pain killer. My son needed a deeper more emotional “pain killer”. Maybe that’s the difference.