The case of an infant who consumed his mum’s methadone is sad – but it doesn’t justify new laws

No, child, they are not lollies.

Alf was a tad perturbed to read of a coroner’s namby-pamby calls for child-proof packaging on medicines.

A youngster has died after scoffing his mum’s methodone. This – of course – is sad.

But the coroner is blaming…who?

Oh, yes. The Government.

In this case it happened to be a Labour Government, which had been looking into an initiative for child-proof packaging on medicines but apparently abandoned the idea in 2007.

This decision is being linked to the death that was the subject of the coroner’s hearing.

According to the report at Stuff, going ahead with the idea could have saved the life of a four-year-old Upper Hutt boy accidently poisoned last year.

Callum Munro was found to have lethal levels of methadone, enough to kill an adult, in his system after he accidently took drugs that his mother was prescribed as pain medication.

His mother, Janelle Treanor, found he had died during the night on April 26. He vomited twice the night before but told his mother afterwards that he felt fine.

She left him asleep and when she saw him the next morning he was cold. Efforts to revive him failed.

While Alf is always eager to find cause to criticise a Labour Government, which by definition will do things badly and therefore deserves criticism, he is not so sure we should get too uppity on this occasion.

How did the infant get his hands on the methodone?

Good question.

Ms Treanor kept the pills in a high cupboard which had a child-safety latch and usually had to ask for a child-proof cap to be put on when she picked up the medication.

Coroner Garry Evans said it appeared the bottle did not have any child-resistant packaging.

He said, “On the evidence before the court it is unlikely Callum would have climbed up on to the drawers, on to the sideboard and been able to reach up, open the cupboard door and manipulate the child-proof lock. It is more likely that one of his sisters did so.

“It needs to be emphasised that Grace and Kate were only 10 and six-years-old respectively. They would have had no idea that the pills removed from the container had the potential to cause injury or death.”

Nor did Ms Treanor, who had said she did not know methadone was poisonous to children. The warning on the label was: “May cause sleepiness: Limit alcohol”.

This Evans bloke asked for evidence from a Wayne Temple, director of the National Poisons Centre.

Temple comes from the regulation-is-good-for-us school and said child-resistant packaging should be extended because it was “woefully inadequate”, with only certain medications required to have child-resistant caps – six types of pills and 12 liquids.

Dr Temple said one or two children died every year from poisoning, with most poisoning being from ingestion and involving children aged under four.

So – one or two deaths a year.

The pharmaceutical industry must be compelled to do something – presumably at somebody’s expense – to stop this remarkably low rate of poisoning?

Temple recalled that a trans-Tasman working party had been developed in 2005 to look at the use of child-resistant packaging for all therapeutic goods.

In the upshot, only some medicines were required to have the packaging.

The coroner has seized on this nugget.

Mr Evans said, “Had the container holding Ms Treanor’s methadone been fitted with a child-resistant closure or in the absence of such closure been placed in a locked cupboard, Callum’s death would have been prevented.”

Alf can suggest other things that would have ensured the lad was still alive. They don’t involve bloody regulations – just the application of some common sense.

Oh, and the idea of child-proof packaging is not quite as dead as the coroner might think.

A Ministry of Health paper published only last month is headed “Proposed Amendments to Regulations under the Medicines Act 1981″.

It is described as a “Report of the Analysis of Submissions and Final Decisions” on the proposed amendments.

And it says –

A number of inter-related changes to the requirements for child-resistant packaging were also requested, some of which would require changes to the Medicines Act (eg, setting standards for child-resistant closures). Reform in this area needs to be considered carefully and achieved using an integrated package of measures.

Meanwhile Alf and his mates are musing on how come they are still alive.

They have relished reading an on-line tract that says they shouldn’t be, according to today’s regulators and bureaucrats.

They should be dead because (among other things) their baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint which was promptly chewed and licked.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans.

When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just flip-flops andfluorescent ‘spokey dokey’s’ on our wheels.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags and riding in the passenger seat was a treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle and it tasted the same.

We ate chips, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy juice withsugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can andno-one actually died from this.

And so on.

It’s a bloody long list of things.

Here are some more.

We walked to friends’ homes.

We also, believe it or not, WALKED to school; we didn’t rely on mummy or daddy to drive us to school, which was just round the corner.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls.

We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore our coats by only the hood.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of…they actually sided with the law.

Yeah, something is sadly lacking from the over-protected lives of today’s youngsters.

3 Responses to The case of an infant who consumed his mum’s methadone is sad – but it doesn’t justify new laws

  1. domainsells says:

    There are many scenarios in which a life COULD have been saved ex post facto; however, I concur that legislation is not always the answer to each and every tragedy.

  2. pmofnz says:

    “their baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint which was promptly chewed and licked”

    That will be why more than few of us have taken up the fine art of blogging. But I still wonder why I do not get an annual grant from Creative NZ for my services to fine art and culture. Beauty is really in the eye…

    That aside, more to the point. When was the “meth-to-go” regime introduced? I was under the impression that junkies and other substance addicted dross still had to turn up for their daily “up=and-down it” fix at the local outpatients. Now it appears that the addicts are self-medicating both themselves and their children. With tragic results, that could be easily fixed.

  3. domainsells says:

    We were invited by the Supreme Court for a study when the Meth phenomena began around 1990. It is a killer in so many ways. I concur. The differentiation is that the majority of sellers of Meth are users themselves. What do you see as the easy fix?


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