Heads up: Top comment and controversy

What is ‘affluenza’? Drunk driving teen who killed four spared jail

A Texas teen has been spared jail - despite killing four people in a crash while drunk driving - after his defence team argued he was suffering from "Affluenza".

Prosecutors had pushed for the maximum 20 year prison sentence, following 16-year-old Ethan Couch's admission of intoxication manslaughter. He and seven other friends had stolen alcohol from Walmart, got into Couch's car, and crashed into four pedestrians while driving at 70 miles per hour in a 40 zone.

What is 'affluenza'?

The term was brought to prominence in the 1990s after Jesse O'Neill published 'The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence', in which a range of conditions stemming from overindulgence at a young age were cited - a sense of entitlement, lack of responsibility, and a tendency towards drug-taking included.

A portmanteau of 'affluence' and 'influenza', the theory broadened in the 2000s to become an indictment of modern society as fixated on material wealth leading to over-consumption, waste and unhappiness.

Affluenza is not a condition recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the key text in modern psychiatry.

Has it ever been used in court before?

No. This was a first. And the case has sparked outrage, with psychologists strongly disputing the validity of the diagnosis. Gary Buffone, a Florida psychologist, said "the simple term would be 'spoilt brat'".

How did the defence suggest affluenza had afflicted Couch?

According to Gawker, an expert summarised the case as follows:

'He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch's parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.

Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy.

At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of .24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. It is illegal for a minor to drive with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.'

Did anyone else buy it?

Not much. Here's a sample of the general feeling

React Now

Read Next
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
 

The economics of the stock market is simple really: buy and hold

Ben Chu
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935