Pubdate: Thu, 22 Apr 2004
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Author: Gregory D. Kesich, Portland Press Herald Writer
Bookmark: (Methadone)


The family of Seth Jordan, a Long Island man who died of a methadone 
overdose, is suing the doctors and clinic that supplied the fatal drug.

In a lawsuit filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, Nancy and Robert 
Jordan claim that CAP Quality Care Inc., an addiction treatment center in 
Westbrook, over-supplied Scott Darling, a client, and allowed him to take 
extra doses home.

As a result, the suit alleges, Darling, 41, of Raymond, had enough 
methadone to satisfy his own cravings and give or sell some to the Jordans' 
son. Seth Jordan, a Duke University graduate who was struggling with 
addiction and mental illness, was found dead in the stairwell of an East 
End apartment on Aug. 14, 2002. He was 27.

The family is seeking unspecified damages from the clinic.

The case is believed to be among the first in the nation which seeks to 
hold a methadone supplier responsible for the consequences of the drug's 
misuse. Jordan's parents say they hope the case will induce methadone 
clinics to do a better job controlling the drug.

"Our goal is to save some lives here," said Robert Jordan. "We feel that 
(CAP) is a very sloppily run operation, and we hope that this lawsuit will 
bring attention to that. People are still dying and these deaths are 

CAP officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Jordan's death was one of a rash of drug overdose deaths that swept through 
Maine in 2002. According to state statistics, 126 people died of drug 
overdoses that year, 33 of them involving methadone. In the first half of 
2003, the state had 46 overdose deaths, with 14 involving methadone.

Methadone is a synthetic drug used to treat opiate addiction. Patients take 
it to avoid the cravings and withdrawal symptoms usually felt by addicts. 
Unlike most prescription medication, it is distributed through clinics, and 
is not usually available at pharmacies or doctors' offices.

Patients who need daily doses usually have to go to the clinic, but some 
are allowed to take doses home for weekends and holidays.

Many of the people who overdosed on methadone in Maine were not clinic 
patients, but people such as Jordan who acquired take-home doses, 
authorities said. Since they had not developed a tolerance to the drug, 
even a maintenance dose of the drug proved fatal.

CAP Quality Care became a center of controversy because of what were 
alleged to be liberal policies regarding take-home doses and the large dose 
size recommended by the company's president, Dr. Marc Shinderman. 
Shinderman and his associates are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. 
So is Mallinckrodt Inc., the drug's manufacturer.

Shinderman refused to comment about the case Wednesday. CAP Quality Care 
spokesman Dennis Bailey referred to a statement issued by the clinic in 
January, which said methadone treatment helps thousands of people with 
addictions lead normal lives. "In some circumstances," the statement read, 
"take-home prescription doses of methadone are necessary for the proper 
treatment of patients."

The Jordans' lawyer, Daniel Lilley of Lilley Associates, Portland, said he 
will argue that CAP Quality Care sold a dangerous product to an 
irresponsible customer and contributed to Seth Jordan's death. He said the 
suit is a strict liability case, in which Jordan's misuse of the drug is 
not a defense.

"The question is foreseeability," Lilley said. "These people are sending 
home lethal drugs with drug addicts. How responsible do they expect them to 

The lawsuit is not the first time Jordan's death has been discussed in court.

Darling, the man who provided Jordan with the fatal dose, was charged with 
manslaughter by a Cumberland County grand jury, and later pleaded guilty to 
furnishing a dangerous drug. He was sentenced to four years in prison, an 
unusually long sentence for that crime.

Darling was the first person in Maine to be charged with illegally 
providing methadone to someone who overdosed, but his is not the only 
person responsible for Jordan's death, Lilley said. Darling was receiving 
take-home doses, even though he was testing positive for other drugs at 
clinic screenings, the suit alleges. Darling also allegedly asked for 
smaller doses, but the clinic did not reduce his prescription.

"There's a lot of responsibility to go around here," Lilley said. "My 
client paid with his life. (Darling) paid with his liberty. It's time to 
distribute blame to all sides."

Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood has been an outspoken critic of the 
clinic, and was supportive of the lawsuit.

He said overdose deaths are still taking place, if not at the same rate as 
they were in 2002. He attributes the deaths to problems with the way 
methadone is distributed.

"If it's part of a comprehensive program, I think it's OK, but methadone by 
itself, I'm totally against," Chitwood said. "If you are allowing it to go 
on the street, I'm opposed."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager