Father Sues Treatment Center Over Son's Methadone Overdose Death

By McCarton Ackerman 03/30/16

The treatment center allegedly violated state policies by allowing the patient to remain in the facility after he admittedly ingested methadone.

Father Sues Treatment Center Over Son's Methadone Overdose Death
photo via Shutterstock

The family of a man who died inside a California rehab center is now suing the facility, claiming that they eschewed state regulations for the sake of profit.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Nathan Eaton died at the Center Point treatment center in San Rafael on March, 9, 2013. He was 32 years old. The county’s chief forensic pathologist confirmed that Eaton died of “acute methadone intoxication.” Meanwhile, the coroner’s report also noted that Eaton told a program manager at the Manor, the primary facility at Center Point, that he had taken five 10-milligram methadone pills that afternoon.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month by his father, Fernin Eaton, claims that Center Point clearly violated state policies by allowing Nathan to remain at the facility after what he'd told the program manager. Unless they are being “admitted for detoxification or withdrawal,” state regulations prohibit treatment facilities from allowing any patient on their premises who has consumed drugs or alcohol in the last 24 hours. The Mercury News notes that the Manor facility where Nathan died is licensed for 24-hour residential care and not as a detox care.

The coroner’s report noted that Center Point’s facility manager “discussed the incident with management” and a joint decision was made to keep Nathan at the facility. The lawsuit alleges that rather than sending him for medical treatment, they “sought to maximize their own profit by keeping a resident at their facility” instead.

“If this helps keep somebody alive that will be wonderful,” said Fernin. “It won’t bring Nathan back, but maybe somebody will pay attention.” Fernin also noted that his son had attended several other rehabs prior to arriving at Center Point.

Center Point officials have not commented on the lawsuit. The non-profit chain rehab organization was first established in 1971 and now has programs in California, Texas and Oklahoma. They reported raking in more than $18 million in revenue in 2012.

Earlier this month, a rehab facility in California faced murder charges for the death of a patient. San Diego-based rehab center A Better Tomorrow, along with four of its employees, had been indicted on second-degree murder charges for the 2010 death of 53-year-old client, Gary Benefield, who died less than 24 hours after arriving at the facility.

Prosecutors argued that A Better Tomorrow killed Benefield by not refilling his oxygen tank and allowing employees with minimal medical training to give him drugs that actually made it harder for him to breathe. But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer ruled that while the facility engaged in questionable practices, they didn’t add up to a murder charge. The murder charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence, but the judge upheld a charge of dependent adult abuse for all but one of the defendants.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.