As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the California State Attorney General's office has pursued second-degree murder charges against A Better Tomorrow and four of its employees relating to the death of a client in 2010. This is the first time in California history that a drug and alcohol rehabalitation corporation has been accused of murder.
The criminal case against A Better Tomorrow and its employees is a warning to California's treatment centers. The prosecutor has argued that the company, in its drive for profit, accepted a client it was not prepared to care for (he was on oxygen and had just been discharged from a hospital for pneumonia) and killed him by failing to refill his oxygen and allowing employees with little or no medical training to give him drugs that were not prescribed by a physician (and were just in their stock of leftover drugs) that made it harder for him to breathe.
Benefield was the fourth person to die after checking into the facility in a little over two years from 2008 to 2010 and that is what the State will attempt to use to prove recklessness or implied malice. There was a civil case that settled and it appears that the coroner found the death to be from natural causes which will cause problems for the prosecution.
It raises an issue for the industry which has gotten used to admitting addicts—some of whom have serious health issues without a clearance from a physician. If the treatment center was for eating disorders, there would be physical clearances and medical staff on site. The industry also has changed a great deal since 2010 when this death happened. It was 6 years ago but the prosecutors are seeking to ensure that the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry recognizes how complex the medical conditions of addicts can be especially older ones with other health issues.
This was tragic and I cannot imagine that anyone intended that the client's health would be endangered but the law of uninended consequences can occur. Having physical and medical clearances before accepting clients to residential treatment programs will be the new norm. Addicts, even young ones, can have enlarged hearts and need to have EKGs and physicals before they are sent for detox and treatment at facilities that do not have full-time medical staff.