December 6, 2014

Dying, and Calling for Help

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Michelle Casson of Del City holds a photo of her son Sashawn Saatian, who died from a drug overdose last year.

Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman

Michelle Casson of Del City holds a photo of her son Sashawn Saatian, who died from a drug overdose last year.

TX - Addicted Oklahoma bug closerSaShawn Saatian died alone of an overdose in a cheap west Oklahoma City motel room after he tried unsuccessfully to summon paramedics.

“My son dialed 911 three times, twice from the phone in the room and once from a cellphone,” said his mother, Michelle Casson of Del City.

“The manager knew there was a problem. She knew he was high or intoxicated on something … It was in the police report. Yet, when this 911 call came through, she told the ambulance not to come.”

Saatian, of Oklahoma City, died Aug. 8, 2013, one day after his doctor, William Martin Valuck, prescribed him 240 pills. He was 32.

The way her son died still haunts Casson, but it’s motivated her as well.

Casson, 53, said her son struggled with drug addiction his entire adult life.

While Valuck, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of second-degree murder, is behind bars for the next eight years, Casson said she thinks others should have to answer for the prescription drug overdose deaths of so many Oklahomans, including her son’s.

“I feel like it should be more than just the doctors … that’s my opinion,” Casson said, referring to who should be held accountable for the overdose deaths linked to medical professionals at Vista Medical Center. “Why stop at the doctor? I mean, how are we going to stop all this … the deaths? We need some new laws. At some point, some people should have to answer for this.”

Casson called for laws that would require certain agencies – including the pharmacy board, medical boards and medical examiner – to be more proactive in preventing overdose deaths.

“If a person has been convicted of a felony in another state, they should not be allowed to practice medicine in Oklahoma,” Casson said. “Dr. Valuck had been in federal prison before he came to Oklahoma … and I know he was banned from practicing in other states. Why was he allowed to practice here?”

“Pharmacies should have to notify someone when they see that a doctor is overprescribing … they know what’s happening when they see prescriptions from somebody like Dr. Valuck,” she said. “And the medical examiner, they know what they’re seeing when they see all those bodies coming through there.”

Casson has even considered taking her activism to another level by picketing Vista Medical Center.

“If somebody would’ve just done their job right, my son might still be alive,” she said.