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Jessie's Law Honors Overdose Victim Who Inspired Obama To Fight Opioid Epidemic

By Victoria Kim 05/04/16

A new bill named after Jessica Grubb would give medical professionals full knowledge of a patient's addiction history if given consent.

Jessie's Law Honors Overdose Victim Who Inspired Obama To Fight Opioid Epidemic
Photo viaShutterstock/Drop of Light

A new bill named after the woman whose battle with heroin addiction became a national symbol, was introduced last Wednesday. It’s called Jessie’s Law, named after Jessica Grubb.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced the legislation alongside fellow Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jessica’s parents, David and Kate. The bill is intended to give doctors full disclosure of a patient’s addiction history, with consent. Such a law could have prevented the death of Jessica, who was prescribed oxycodone after a running-related surgery despite her history of heroin addiction. 

Jessica’s father, David, who was at the press conference last Wednesday announcing Jessie’s Law, said the family had made every effort to alert her doctors to her addiction history. “We talked to every treating physician and told them exactly what our concerns were,” he said in a video provided by the Huffington Post. “So we placed our faith in them and we came back home after the surgery feeling very confident.”

But ultimately, their efforts were not enough. A doctor discharged Jessica from the hospital with a prescription for 50 oxycodone and an IV port to pump antibiotics into her arm. Soon after, she was found dead. “Unfortunately for a recovering addict six months sober, their brain doesn’t work the way a normal brain does,” said David Grubb at the press conference. “It was a temptation she could not resist.” The doctor later told him that he had been unaware of her addiction history. 

“We are going to eliminate that from ever happening again,” said Manchin, “when the parents and the person who is being cared for both agree that we want this to be known so that we don’t end up with something we shouldn’t have.” Jessie’s Law would amend the existing Public Health Service Act to “provide for the sharing of health information” concerning a patient’s substance abuse history.

Jessica Grubb became a national symbol when her father told her story at a Charleston town hall, to an audience including President Obama. At that time, in October, Jessica watched the event via livestream from a residential rehab in Michigan. Her story had an impact on the president, who is said to have been inspired to devote more resources to fighting the opioid epidemic, after hearing about Jessica’s seven-year battle with heroin addiction.

Just five months after the town hall, however, Jessica was found dead at the age of 30. “Her death was 100% preventable and she should still be with us today,” said Manchin in a release. The senator and Jessica’s family expressed their hopes that in passing Jessie’s Law, her death would not have been in vain. 

“Jessie’s life can have meaning,” said her father. “She can prevent future death."

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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