Read this devastating account of the trial of Dr. William Hurwitz.
I know I feel safer with men like this on trial. Maybe if we are really lucky, the state can seize his assets and use them to bust some pot dealers somewhere. Or maybe some more street light cams.
And lets all give John Tierney a hand for covering this.
jointcandle for Dr. Hurwitz.
Interesting–chalk one up for Glenn Greenwald’s arguments against prescription drug laws.
Kudos to his lawyers Lawrence Robbins and Richard Sauber (acording to Wikipedia) who are working pro bono.
Good post, John.
I hope Dr. Hurwitz is acquitted. He sounds like a good man.
If you can link to Atrios without calling him an asshole, I guess I can give Tierney a hand.
I may bitch about drug costs but I am glad I have a doctor who listens to me and doesn’t play that sort of “Father knows best” bullshit.
This guy got 25 years after his first trial? Wow, he must be an evildoer of epic proportions given one of “the worst of the worst” at Gitmo got 9 months.
Your president’s initiatives and federal tax dollars at work.
I’d kind of like to know why the appellate court threw the initial decision out. IIRC, the case is much less clear than Tierney makes it out to be.
Remember, the best place to make medical decisions is in court, not in the doctor’s office. The Supremes even say so. I think it’s because of all those years of medical school and medical residency that lawyers undertake in order to become qualified to practice law. That’s why lawyers, not doctors, should decide how patients should be medicated.
— Badtux the Snarky Penguin
I have personal experience with a spouse with chronic pain. Large doses of Oxycontin are the only relieve they get. It took a myriad of Doctors before one was found who had the courage to prescribe these drugs exactly as they are intended–to releive the suffering of chronic pain. My spouse does not get “high” on what the public thinks is Hillbilly Heroin, rather just get relief from constant pain and gains the ability to get out of bed and function normally. Unfortunately, the Rush Limbaughs of the world have abused these prescription drugs so that the people who actually need them cannot find a doctor who actual believes them. Think what it is like to be in constant pain and then when trying to find relief being treated as a drug addict or worse. The abuse of a few really really hurt the legitimate pain of the many. I hope the jury can find it in their hearts to acquit Dr. Hurwitz. He’s a saint in my eyes.
Actually, BT, the Supes quite directly did *not* say that. In fact, they reprimanded the DOJ for trying to establish appropriate medical standards in the courtroom. That’s one of the big charges which was thrown out against Hurwitz.
Nobody should doubt that I’m all in favor of interventionist pain relief with the most aggressive opiates when that’s appropriate. Pain is tragically undertreated here in the US, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Hurwitz, though…I think the case is more complicated than just pain relief.
This is the kind of shit that allowed us to take our eye off of the terrorists. When Bush and Co. came into office all they cared about was porn and drugs.
Demimondian, I was talking about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding late-term abortion. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.
As for the case of Hurwitz, if he has not practiced medicine properly, the proper course of action is for his license to practice medicine be removed by the state medical board, which, BTW, *is* doctors and thus have the proper credentials to make medical determinations. Criminalizing medicine is, well, criminal.
True, but also note that he was prosecuted in 2004–they’re still focusing more on porn and drugs…
Bush’s administration, summed up in three words: “War, on drugs.”
For once John, I agree with your every word. This is nastiness at its worst.
Could we venture to say the reason Mr. HURWITZ is on trial is because of some underlying Jew hatred somewhere in the system?
This seems so absurd, it might be the cause of it.
Off topic, but has anyone seen some of the hearings with Tillman and Lynch?
Why is it that EVERYTHING is politicized, with these guys? Why stain the honor of fallen soldiers, by made=for-tv themes and images?
(Note – there was a soldier, alive now, who doesn’t remember being shot – HE is given bad information by his commanders, on why he is shot.)
The political addition to ‘minding the image’ over and above any principlie, it’s just …sickening. No commitment to truth, no commitment to reciprocity for the soldier – as long as the story is good, and you get “good TV”.
Reason (although I have fun poking a lot of Libertarians) has been covering this in depth for quite some time.
I’ve had migraines. I’ve had opioids. If I could have only one or the other, I’d take the latter any day.
Me, too — in fact, I’ve taken opiates for migraines before, and I’ll do it again when I need to do so. (I wish I could say “if”, but that would be idiotic.) I’ve strenuously encouraged other people to “take their dope”, because they were injured or post-surgery, or whatever, and I feel no guilt about that. Pain is useful, to a certain point, but counterproductive beyond that point.
The Hurwitz case, however, is a lot more complicated than the Gliberarians among us would acknowledge. For instance, Dr. Hurwitz was sanctioned by the Virginia State Board several times for overprescribing, something which people are glossing over, and that he continued to prescribe in cases where he had been told that his patients were selling the meds he prescribed.
Kathryn in California
That story brought tears to my eyes.
My friend’s father spent 30 years working in, and then running, a local faith-based charity providing food and shelter to the poor. His work included heavy lifting, and by the time he retired he had substantial back damage. Which became substantial back pain. He’s had 5 surgeries.
He prays for death every night, because the pain is that bad. His retirement property didn’t seem so remote when they bought it years ago, but now it’s too far for him to tolerate a drive to urban areas (where there are doctors specializing in pain management).
The amount of painkillers he needs to be able to walk around is far, far more than would trigger the DEA’s goons, and so his local doctors only give him what’s safe for them. He understands, and then he prays.
My friend worries about every phone call she gets from her parents: one day the call might come that her dad couldn’t bear his cross another day.
Sounds like he was an irresponsible doctor who needed his license pulled. Hopefully that has happened. That said, there is a big difference between being a bad doctor and needing to be punished with jail time. I’m assuming that Dr. Hurwitz’s conduct has not caused the death of anybody and thus has not reached the level of negligent homocide, or even any victims coming forth to say that Dr. Hurwitz’s irresponsibility caused them harm. In that case, why is the State involved? What good will imprisoning Dr. Hurwitz do anybody?
There’s one case of someone who did OD immediately after getting a prescription from him. That was the basis of his original sentence, in fact. I’m extraordinarily skeptical of his direct role in that case, but there’s no doubt that she went to him, got pills, and OD’ed on those pills. Whether he had followed up sufficiently on her or not, I don’t know.
I agree that the Virginia board should have pulled his license earlier, and I’m unsympathetic to this prosecution. I’d be far more sympathetic if there were evidence that he had profited directly from the abuse, which the government did not allege. Still, the question is, what’s the right approach when the relevant authority isn’t acting, and should have?
This makes me angry beyond reason’s ability to contain.
Maybe this doctor over-prescribed in some cases, but it seems more likely that where he ran afoul of the law was due to the nature of the patients who sought him out or were referred to him.
So what’s the metric? How many patients are to be kept in chronic, unbearable pain so the government can reduce the risk of other people choosing to abuse painkillers?
And if you don’t see the problem inherent in that metric, well you probably aren’t much of a conservative.
Two weeks bedridden from debilitating pain to hoard enough medicine to make one important appointment.
I want to throw up.