Should Sleep Apnea Really be the Best Defense in a Trial?

We’ve heard it several times already, “sleep apnea made me do it” or “sleep apnea is the reason I fell asleep.” Is this argument always valid? Should we pay closer attention to those who claim they suffer from sleep apnea? These are all important questions, and while we don’t want to lessen the severity that sleep apnea has on an individual, we also don’t want to overuse it. In a New York Post article, sleep apnea appears to be a lawyer’s new favorite criminal defense.

The Charge

On a flight, a 21-year-old woman had her earbuds in and hood up while she was eating her in-flight lunch when a large middle-aged man sleeping next to her appeared to jump awake. At first, the man grabbed the woman’s shoulder. Soon after he went around and grabbed the woman’s right breast. The groping from the large man lasted about 30 seconds before fellow passengers could pull them apart. The woman’s attacker was brought up on federal sex-abuse charges.

The Defense

In response to the federal sex-abuse charges, the man’s lawyer presented a bizarre defense that has been used far too often. And, that’s a shame for those who actually suffer from this condition. He said, “Sleep apnea made me do it.” The man was eventually acquitted.

Can you believe that? A deadly condition like sleep apnea is not one to be used lightly, and when someone uses this condition as an excuse, it can give sleep apnea a bad name. We don’t want that to happen.

What We Can Do

We’ve seen this happen far too many times now, but what can we do about it? While we can’t change the opinions, we can continue to educate our patients. Through proper education and treatment, we can not only help our patients live healthier lives, but also understand the true definition of this condition.

From train crashes to cases of sexual abuse, where do we draw the line? I wish I knew the answer to this, but I believe that the more we educate ourselves, employees, and patients, the more we can avoid these situations. Whether it is preventing a crash through proper treatment, or allowing for people like the man in this story to not get away with sleep apnea as an excuse for touching a woman by providing proper education, we need to stay strong.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and we need to continue to provide the services we offer in order to educate the masses.