Several members of the ’85 Bears have sued the NFL for, among other things, giving them painkillers without warning them of the risks and side effects. Their old-school coach has commented on the topic, applying a predictably old-school attitude.
“If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them,” Mike Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t think anybody ever forces anyone to do anything. If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. If you wanted it, they were available. There’s no question about that. Is that right? I don’t know.”
It’s only right if they knew the risks when making the decision to take the drugs. Without knowing the risks, they could take anything if they think it would help them get back onto the field, from steroids to strychnine.
The NFL has a right to defend itself against the new suit, but it’s wrong for anyone to attack players who chose to take medications without being given — by the doctors who were obligated to care for them — information about the risks and side effects.
Would some of the players have taken the medication anyway? Sure. Would some of the coaches (like Ditka) have pressured them to take the medication so that they’d be able to play? Do I even need to answer that?
None of it matters if the doctors didn’t bother to share the risks with the players. If that’s the case, the players bear no blame because they never had the chance to consciously assume the risk.
Would we have it any other way for our family members or for ourselves? Don’t we expect doctors to tell us the potential risks of taking prescription medication? For some of the drugs advertised on TV, some of the items on the list of possible side effects sound a lot worse than the condition the medication is supposed to treat.
Everyone is entitled to know that information, regardless of the impact of the information on their decision to take the medication.