Drug Addiction’s Victims

Drug Addiction’s Victims

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By Ned Wicker

Addiction had its say on April 25, 2008. It was the end of a sad story that began in 1993, when orthopedic surgeon Mark Benson was leaving a basketball game with three of his children. He lost control of his car and slammed into am concrete retaining barrier. The police tested for alcohol, but not for drugs. Benson had a .07 blood alcohol level, below the legal limit at the time of .10. Three years prior he had crashed his car, sustained a herniated disk and was prescribed hydrocodone. By the time his 1993 accident happened, he was already well on his way to addiction.

Since 1993, Benson’s life has been a continuing tragedy of drunken driving arrests, citations for his addiction to prescription medications and alcohol and more car crashes. He has been in and out of trouble with the medical broad, but allowed to practice. He has also been in rehab.

On February 9, 2008, his driving privileges were suspended, but on February 23, he was ticketed for driving with a suspended license and for failing to yield the right of way. On April 4, he was convicted on both counts. Still he continued to drive. On April 23, Judge Lee S. Dreyfus Jr. sentenced Benson for a 75-day work-release jail term for a 2007 traffic accident, which injured the other driver, but instead of taking the former surgeon into custody, they told him to report to jail on until May 9.

On April 25, just two days later and with a jail term facing him, at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, Benson, driving under the influence of sleep aids and antidepressants, slammed is Cadillac Escallade into the rear end of the stopped car driven by Jennifer Bukosky, an associate principal at Oconomowoc (Wisconsin) High School. Bukosky was killed, as was her 10 year-old daughter Courtney Bella and Bukosky’s unborn child. Injured in the crash were Bukosky’s 12 year-old son Zachary, who was treated and released and 10 year-old Debra Gibbs, who was taken to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

According the criminal complaint, Benson was under the influence of oxycodone; Ambien and Xanax. He had consumed one oxycodone tablet and four or five each of Ambien and Xanax on Friday morning. He was on his way to a local pharmacy to pick up another prescription to get six Cialis and six Viagra pills. The complaint stated that Benson was driving approximately 50 miles per hour (five over the posted speed) and never touched the brakes as he rear-ended Bukosky’s car, which was stopped at a stop light.

Benson was charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle for the deaths of Buklosky and her daughter; homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle involving an unborn child; operating while intoxicated and causing injury because of the two other children in the car; and operating after revocation. If he is convicted he could face 123 years in prison.

This story has a face and a name. I saw the accident scene. I live in Oconomowoc.

This is a tragedy that is repeated thousands of times in America. Benson is an addict. Is he responsible for behaving like an addict? Yes. Is the criminal justice system at fault for allowing a potential killer on the loose? Yes. What was the judge thinking? Did he not believe that an addict would behave like an addict and pay no attention to the laws or reason? Is it not cheaper for society to treat addicts rather than hand out meaningless sentences after meaningless trials? Benson was scolded, reprimanded, sanctioned, shamed and may have received some cursory treatment. But he was never stopped. Left unchecked, a long time addict will either kill him/herself or somebody else. Treatment saves lives.

Punishment isn’t the answer, because addicts need treatment. I believe Benson got off the hook in court because of his position as a surgeon. He had wealth and property. He was at the top of the health care food chain. He was respected. Judges gave him a pass. They may have thought they were doing a respected citizen a favor. Instead they were ruining his life by allowing him to continue to be an addict.

This is a tragedy of unspeakable depths. Addiction had its day. Three people died in my little town.

Ned Wicker is the Addictions Recovery Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center

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