Mother gives dramatic account of baby born with addiction to opioids

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) earlier this month denied a request from the Opioid Justice Team to create a new multidistrict litigation proceeding for babies born addicted to opioids, also known as Neo-natal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). 

The requested proceeding, which was turned down on Dec. 7, would have established a one billion dollar medical monitoring trust for children suffering from the condition. 

Hill.TV spoke earlier this month with West Virginia mother, Sandra Blankenship who teamed up with the Opioid Justice Team in an effort to address the issue of babies born with NAS ahead of the hearing. 

Blankenship was unaware that her adopted daughter, Eva, was born addicted opioids until she started exhibiting signs of distress just days after she was brought home from the hospital. 

“She was trembling. She was sweating. She had all these, almost like a fight or flight response. She was terrified and i never could understand what that was," Blankenship told Hill.TV in an interview that aired Monday on "Rising." 

Blankenship said that her daughter, now six-years-old, will have to deal with developmental delays and issues for her entire life. 

“Our pediatrician says that she is probably going to have lifelong issues. She chokes very easily, so she doesn’t eat unsupervised. She has some ADHD. She never can sit still," Blankenship said. 

Blankenship's daughter is one of the thousands of babies who have been born addicted to opioids. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that every 25 minutes, a baby is born with suffering from opioid withdrawal. 

Despite the attention given to the nationwide opioid crisis from lawmakers and government officials, the issue of NAS has yet to be addressed by the federal government. 

“I don’t think there’s been any hearings in Congress about the plight of those infants who were born dependent upon opioids," attorney Kevin Thompson, who has worked with Blankenship and the Opioid Justice League, told Hill.TV earlier this month. 

“There’s a lot of talk about state budgets, county sheriffs. Those are all very important but i think the babies don’t have a voice because the babies don’t have a lot of money," he continued. 

Despite their loss before the panel this month, the Opioid Justice Team has vowed to keep fighting for children born with NAS. 

“We are reviewing the decision and determining our path forward. One thing is clear: babies born with NAS must have separate representation and a medical monitoring trust to get the justice and relief they specifically need," Scott Bickford, an attorney with the Opioid Justice Team who argued before the JPML last month, said in a statement to Hill.TV. 

"The babies are uniquely situated from any other plaintiff, which the JPML recognized. A number of NGOs focusing on addiction and children’s issues that submitted amicus briefs agree with our position, and we will not rest until the babies’ claims are heard," he continued.

— Julia Manchester