"Here, given the documented downturn in the decedent's mood and concerns her family had that
she might do herself harm, along with the autopsy report's conclusion that the manner of death
was suicide, the WCLJ had ample facts in the record to infer that the decedent's suicide was a
consequence of her compensable injury and consequential mental health condition. Therefore, upon review of the record and based upon a preponderance of the evidence, the Board Panel finds that the decedent's suicide was a consequence of her compensable injuries including her established consequential depression."
Get used to language like this. While we've made strides in workers' compensation with respect to opioids (see Peter Rousmaniere's special report out today), we still have a long way to go, particularly with so-called "legacy claims." The decision quoted above comes from the New York State Workers' Compensation Board and covers the very sad story of woman injured in 1999 and the long, slow decline she experienced, resulting in her eventual suicide by oxycodone and diazepam.
You're going to be reading a lot more court decisions like this in the months and years to come. The opioid prescription bonanza of the last 10 years is going to create a wave of cases like this over the next 10 years. We're far more effective today than we've ever been in controlling early opioid use (though even in this category, we have a lot of work to do). The challenge is going to be the claims that arose before we knew how severe this problem would turn out to be.
One of the many insights in Peter's report that struck me was the relative danger faced by injured workers in chronic pain. He points out that the riskiest jobs in America (like logging, for instance) typically lead to about 1 death per 1,000 workers per year. But injured workers on medium-to-high dose opioids for a year experience about 1.75 deaths per 1,000 patients per year.
Follow the link above, read Peter's report. This should be required reading for everyone in work comp.
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