Affluenza Killer's $450K "Treatment" Failed

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I don't typically say "I told you so" for two reasons: a) one day somebody who "told me so" will end up being right and I'll be made to look foolish; b) it just isn't a very nice thing to say. But let me be clear what I stated "I told you so" about nearly two years ago in this blog: psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller's "affluenza" defense testimony.

To briefly re-cap, Ethan Couch was 16 years old when he voluntarily drank enough alcohol to achieve a blood alcohol three times the Texas legal limit, stammered into the driver's side of his vehicle and literally drove over a group of people, killing four (including a mother and her daughter). As well, he seriously injured others as his car proceeded to plow into a vehicle coming the other direction. Dr. Miller testified under oath that Couch suffered from "affluenza," a psychological disturbance Dr. Miller indicated to the Court stemmed from Couch's wealthy upbringing.  According to this Reuters article, Dr. Miller indicated that Couch, as a result of affluenza, "could not tell right from wrong".

In my previous blog post I questioned why Dr. Miller was even permitted to testify using the made-up diagnosis of affluenza. This term does not appear anywhere in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is not accepted in the mental health literature as a scientifically valid diagnosis.

But Dr. Miller was allowed to testify regarding his expert opinion that Couch "suffered" from affluenza and, at least according to this CNN article, also testified Couch could be rehabilitated with the help of a $450,000 course of "treatment" from a facility in California, which his family could afford and was freely willing to pay out-of-pocket. Apparently this treatment plan failed as both Couch and his mother fled to Mexico before being apprehended after a two-week spree of doing, well, "affluenza things" (quotes mine).

As a psychiatrist I do not use the term "crazy" to describe patients or defendants I evaluate in the criminal justice system. However, I do believe there is a time and a place for this word. Allowing this young man to get away with killing 4 innocent people was just as crazy two years ago as it is now; only now the whole world hopefully realizes what a mistake it was to allow this ridiculous "affluenza" defense to stand.