October 21, 2007

Gastroparesis Defense Against DUI

In 2004, William Nichols Jr. of Ocala, Florida, was charged with 2 counts each of DUI-manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. He lost control of his truck and crashed into a Tempo being driven by Holly Cummings. Holly's mother, Nancy, was a passenger in the car. Both were killed in the crash.

Jury selection and opening statements in his trial were conducted last week.

Nichols' blood alcohol content was found to be 0.103 and 0.104, two-and one-half hours after the crash. The legal limit is 0.08. "The defense is not disputing the alcohol results at trial. Instead, they plan to offer a medical explanation about the high alcohol content. The defense says Nichols may have had a gastroesophageal condition which caused the alcohol to sit in his stomach and not metabolize."
The 7-person defense team, led by William DeCarlis, will argue that Nichols suffers from gastroparesis; slow gastric emptying caused him to have alcohol in his system more than 6 hours after he'd consumed the alcohol.

If Nichols had been charged based on a Breathalyzer test, it's reasonable that the BrAC was influenced by alcohol remaining undigested in his stomach. Diffusion rates, the rate at which liquid is absorbed into the blood through the stomach membrane wall, are usually slower in people with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis creates reflux, which might increase the alcohol eliminated in Nichols' breath.

But, Nichols was not arrested at the scene or even administered a Breathalyzer. He was picked up later, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had the BAC results from samples of Nichols' blood. The specimen was collected more than 2 hours after the accident (over 8 hours since he'd had his last drink).

It is estimated that from 0.5% - 2% of ingested alcohol is not metabolized and enters the bloodstream through diffusion. "Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream by a combination of metabolism, excretion, and evaporation." Alcohol is slow to metabolize. Ninety to 98% of alcohol is metabolized (removed from the blood) by the liver.

- How does his claim that the alcohol was retained in his stomach because of gastroparesis account for alcohol being found in his blood?
- Does it make a difference how that level of alcohol got into his blood (i.e., via diffusion or normal digestion)?
- Is he claiming that he's not responsible for his impairment, but his disease is?
- Is it OK to drive with BAC over the legal limit, because you have a disease? Alcoholism is also a disease, but is it a defense against DUI charges?

Nichols faces up to 15 years in prison on each charge, if convicted.

A Patient Story: Living with Gastroparesis



Anonymous said...

I have diabetes. Does that mean that inconsistent insulin levels excuses me from impaired driving charges?

Biddie said...

Actually, I think with diabetes, it does make a difference. Not sure, but I think that it does...
BUT, this guy should STILL have not gotten behind the wheel. Never.

Christine said...

You're right, Bridget.

Sorry, anonymous, but alcohol has a direct effect on a person's blood-glucose level which can cause a different type of impairment in diabetes. There are also documented differences in metabolism of alcohol in diabetics.

How about depression? Can depression excuse somebody from DUI charges?

Anonymous said...

So, my comment has no social relevance whatsoever. But doesn't the guy in the photo look like Willie Ames (of Celebrity Weight Loss fame, not of her Charles In Charge/Eight is Enough Days.)


Maybe looking like Willie Ames is enough of a reason to drink?

Christine said...

Check out Willie Aames freaking out on Celebrity Fit Club 2 - The Zorb Challenge

(a 10 sec. ad opens ahead of Willie's video)

Anonymous said...

I have Gastroparesis and have been diagnosed by a Gastric emptying scan along with numerous Upper GI's. I've finally found some relief by getting an upper GI with multiple Botox shots injected into the Pylorus the last two years. I do not have Diabetes and have a consistent blood level of 80 or below.

I only like to drink beer but have found hard alcohol can help relax the stomach and relieve the pain of undigested food. It also appears to help with the vomiting as well. If this man truly has Gastroparesis I feel bad for him but driving is not acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I call BS
I have gastroparesis from cancer and meds, you can not drink when you have gastroparesis! First of all the best example is you're stomach basically works like you've had gastric bypass with out the surgery and a lot more pain. Some alcohol (like your beer) has yeast in it with bloats the stomach, because you have to rely on enzymes to break down the slow moving food it takes twice as long to break down alcohol and its extremly painful to be walking around with a upset, bloated stomach for hours. I usually end up just throwing it right back up.
Now hard alcohol is a whole different beast. It burns in your stomach, you can get intense alcohol poisoning and you usually are sick for any where to a day to a week (for more severe cases like myself.) needless to say, your an idiot. thanks christine.