Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Editorial the News Sentinel Should have Written

Last week, the Knoxville News Sentinel wrote an editorial revealing the position of the paper regarding the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Katie Allison Granju against Randall Houser, Yolanda Harper, and the clinic which sold them the methadone they gave to Henry. In that editorial, the KNS very politely told Katie that while they supported the lawsuit, she really should keep quiet about the Knox County Sheriff's Office, since the investigation was still going on and the wild accusations of a grief stricken mother would only be a distraction. I wrote my feelings about editorial in the comments here, but wanted to take the time and write the editorial that should have been written. This lawsuit does not name the KCSO, the DA, the ME, or anybody else, just the folks who allowed Henry to suffer for hours before calling for help. And so, here's my editorial opinion:

While there are many who believe that the death of Henry Granju was the tragic but inevitable result of his decision to abuse drugs, his mother sees it differently and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming the people she believes are responsible for Henry's death.

The lawsuit names Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser as the two people who supplied Henry with the overdose of methadone that led to his death, and the clinic where they acquired the methadone. According to the filing, Yolanda Harper gave Henry the overdose, then she and Randall took Henry to their home in South Knox County, making it impossible for him to get aid on his own for the overdose. The filing goes on to claim that Harper and Houser knew Henry was in grave medical danger, and phoned several people over a period of about six hours, describing his condition in detail, yet refusing to call 911 for assistance.

According to Henry's mother, Henry did not just die from the overdose; he died because the people who took responsibility for him, who gave him the drugs then took him into their home, refused to make a phone call that could have saved his life. Instead they watched as he lay on the floor, slowly suffocating over a period of hours, his brain dying from hypoxia. Granju also names the clinic where Harper and Houser were allowed to take home a 30 day supply of the drug, despite knowing the unreliable nature of addicts. Granju has noted that the most common drug listed in overdose deaths is methadone and she wants to bring accountability to the for profit clinics which make money dispensing the drug.

While we believe that anyone who abuses drugs has to take some measure of responsibility for their actions, we also believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to provide aid as needed for somebody we have taken into our care.

Some believe that since Henry did deal small quantities of drugs to support his habit he deserved what happened to him; what we know is that there were many other people who did not deserve what happened to them as a result of Henry's death.

Henry had a younger brother, who will now live the rest of his life without his older brother's companionship. Henry had three younger sisters, one of whom he never met. She was born shortly after his death. Another sister will only remember him in a wheel chair, in pain, confused, and barely able to speak. The oldest of his sisters will never get to see her brother again. There will be an empty seat at her wedding, at the birth of her children. Henry's parents will live with the ache of a child lost to them forever. Henry's friends will live with the terrible question, "What if?" "What if I had spoken up?" "What if I had kept Henry from getting into that van?" "What if I had done something, anything differently? Would Henry still be alive today if I had just said something sooner?"

There are many people who lost because of Henry's death, many people who were damaged. They all paid a high price when Henry died, and even though some think it was fair for Henry to pay that cost, nobody can say it was fair for them to pay it along with him.

According Katie Granju's lawsuit, they are paying not because Henry decided to use drugs, not because he overdosed, but because two people who took Henry into their home couldn't be bothered to make a phone call to save his life.

We support this lawsuit as a way to bring the facts to light in this tragedy and if those facts bear out the allegations of the filing, we urge the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney to file criminal charges as provided for in Tennessee law.

Unlike the KNS, I'll sign this editorial.

Richard D Hailey

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