Health John Oliver hammers Big Pharma for opioid epidemic

It’s tempting to note that it’s quite a coincidence that John Oliver’s focus last night on Last Week Tonight was the opioid epidemic, coming as it did on a weekend in which authorities announced that two people are dead — so far — in a wave of nine overdoses of opioids in the Twin Cities.

But that’s the nature of epidemics. There are no coincidences. These headlines have been a constant for more than a year.

“No one is safe from it,” Oliver noted.

It mostly stems from addiction to prescribed painkillers, he notes accurately.

“Alternative pain treatments should be at least as easy to find as Waffle Houses, which, like heroin, are both hazardous to your health and dangerously addictive,” Oliver said.


  • Mike Worcester

    Is it still true in most print publications that the headline is often not written by the reporter, but by a copy editor or someone else?

    And this is just me, but I cannot fathom now why someone would *not* buckle up, whether they are the driver or passenger. I won’t even start my car unless everyone is buckled in.

    • That is true.

    • wjc

      Totally agree about not driving without everyone being buckled up.

      Perhaps the headline represents more of a public service attempt to say “Hey everybody, buckles those belts”, than an attempt to shame the deceased, who probably doesn’t care at this point.

      • Sergio Robert Andrade Jr.

        I feel like more important than whether the victim cares would be the damage the shaming can do to the grieving process of his family. It would suck to have a loved one die then have his or her decisions scrutinized by the public.

    • John

      I feel the same way about bicycle helmets, yet I see people every time I ride who aren’t wearing them.

      Then I see cyclists getting shamed in the headline when they hit by a car that didn’t have the right of way – helmet or not.

      We have a car-centric culture that defaults to shaming the victim whether they deserve it or not.

  • Leroy

    I don’t see this as about shaming the victim, instead it’s more of a “Hey! If you don’t buckle up this could be you.”

    • Which brings up the question of whether a new story should be a PSA.

      • Rob

        A news story should focus on telling it like it is. Hence, no shaming involved in noting, in a story centered on a fatal car crash, that the failure to wear a seat belt was the proximate cause of the fatality. That the story may also serve incidentally as a PSA is something with which I’m totally O.K.

        • Sergio Robert Andrade Jr.

          “Telling it like it is” is a delusion. You can not tell it like it is without omitting details because that would quickly devolve into absurdity. ” Mr. Kuseske woke up at 7AM that morning and was on his way to Panera from his sister’s house when he saw a squirrel crossing the road when etc…. Picking out the details that one thinks are important and omitting details that don’t fit the narrative of the speaker are necessary conditions to human communication. You simply cannot have an objective point of view of anything.

          • Rob

            I think a coroner, having determined that the cause of death was not wearing a seat belt, might beg to differ with you regarding which details are important to the narrative.

          • Sergio Robert Andrade Jr.

            I really wasn’t trying to insert my own value judgments on which events or details should have been put in the story. I was just trying to make the point that the act of deciding what goes in and what doesn’t is necessarily and inherently a political act. Thus, I completely agree that in this story thr way it and its headline are written constitutes shaming of the victim.

          • Rob

            Sometimes the recitation of highly germane facts results in embarrassment or discomfort. Still doesn’t amount to shaming.

          • A coroner wouldn’t determine such a thing. Not wearing a seat belt isn’t a cause of death any more than two people killed over the weekend while wearing seat belts isn’t a cause of death.

          • Laurie K.

            Not wearing a seat belt was not the cause of the death, but it certainly could have contributed to the death.

          • Rob

            My bad. What the law enforcement investigators would conclude is that being unbelted was the primary and indispensable cause of the person being ejected from the car – or bouncing around in the car like a human cannonball – and sustaining fatal injuries thereby.

  • Brad Koehn

    Context in the news is oft-debated and difficult to nail down. When I was a kid, newspapers rarely failed to mention the race of a perpetrator (provided it wasn’t white). I think you’re making a big jump assuming that “Unbelted” equates to blaming or shaming; most articles mentioned it in the text anyway.

    • Why do you think they do?

      • Brad Koehn

        I think it provides a valuable and potent reminder when you see “Unbelted” again and again, that maybe buckling your own belt is a good idea.

        Put it another way: as a pilot, do you feel the same way about reading a GA News article that’s headlined, “VFR Flight into IMC Results in Fatality”?

        • “VFR flight into IMC” isn’t usually available information at the time of the crash.

          But, as I wrote before, we don’t do this for many other instances.

          • Brad Koehn

            It’s an quixotic way to engage with your readers, Bob.

          • ??

          • Brian Simon

            The media usually shames unhelmeted cyclists, both motorized and not.

  • Laurie K.

    I think whether a person is wearing a seat belt is part of the story. The fact is, that when you do not wear a seat belt, you take the risk of more substantial injury even in low impact crashes. Non-compliance to wearing a seat belt is a contributing factor to the injuries and/or death thus making it part of the story. I also agree with “Junebug” that the headline describes two factual events – the decedent was not wearing a seat belt and the pick up driver caused the accident by failing to yield.

  • 212944

    This is 2016 … shaming others has become as American as apple pie ever was, if it ever was. Some have turned it into a lucrative profession and industry.

  • Rob

    It’s not shaming for a newspaper story to use a headline that is both factually correct and that notes that a certain behavior either significantly contributed to, or was the primary cause of a person’s death. The notion that the lede should intentionally be buried when it comes to unbelted people being killed, people not wearing lifejackets drowning, a person crossing against the light being killed, or people not wearing helmets being killed due to head trauma, is totally whack.

  • Anna

    Bob, I think we’ve got the right story but the wrong comments from your “housekeeping” issue.