Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Good news: some deservedly obscure lawyers get their 15 minutes

Bad news: they're wrong
From Reason Magazine:
"In December, after a federal jury
convicted McLean, Virginia, pain doctor William Hurwitz of running a drug trafficking operation, the foreman told The Washington Post "he wasn't running a criminal enterprise." Don't bother reading that sentence again; it's not going to make any more sense the second time around.
I read it again for you. The author, Jacob Sullum, is absolutely right; it doesn't make any more sense.
Hurwitz, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14 and will go to prison for life if U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler follows the prosecutors'
recommendation, was charged with drug trafficking because a small minority of his patients abused or sold narcotic painkillers he prescribed for them. Prosecutors argued his practice amounted to a "criminal enterprise" based on a "conspiracy of silence"—i.e., a conspiracy in which Hurwitz did not actually conspire with anyone—because he charged for his services and should have known some of his patients were faking or exaggerating their pain.
Emphasis mine.

It gets worse:
The government's main medical expert, Michael Ashburn, testified that consumption of high narcotic doses by patients with chronic pain who do not have cancer is a sign of drug abuse.
Latest poll, which is way up says he's wrong:
In a
letter they wrote before the verdict, six past presidents of the American Pain Society rebuked Ashburn for this statement, along with several other misrepresentations of pain treatment standards. "We are stunned by his testimony," they said. "Use of 'high dose' opioid therapy for chronic pain is clearly in the scope of medicine."
Yes, the emphasis' mine.

What has this got to do with me, you ask? Well, if you get into a situation where you need high doses of opiods to control pain, you'll be facing a doctor who may go to jail if he prescribes you the painkillers you need:
As these pain experts recognized, Hurwitz was not the only person on trial at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. So was every doctor who has the courage to risk investigation by treating people who suffer from severe chronic pain with the high doses of opioids they need to make their lives livable.
Read it all

But you do feel much safer now, don't you?

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