Our new ombudsman has an infuriating piece about what can only be described as malicious prosecution:
Siobhan Reynolds entered this fray when her late ex-husband Sean, began suffering the symptoms of a congenital connective tissue disorder that left him with debilitating pain in his joints. After trying a variety of treatments, he found relief in a high-dose drug therapy administered by Virginia pain specialist William Hurwitz. But Hurwitz was later charged and convicted on 16 counts of drug trafficking. The judge acknowledged that Hurwitz ran a legitimate practice and had likely saved and improved the lives of countless people. His crime was not recognizing that some of his patients were addicts and dealers. Meanwhile, Reynolds’ husband died in 2006 of a cerebral brain hemorrhage, which she believes was the result of years of abnormally high blood pressure brought on by his pain.
All of this moved Reynolds to start the Pain Relief Network, a shoestring nonprofit that advocates on behalf of pain patients and physicians. Reynolds quickly learned how to convey the frustration of pain patients and their families. I first met her at a 2005 Capitol Hill forum. She had the entire room in tears. I later commissioned and edited a paper for the Cato Institute about painkiller prosecutions.***
In 2007, Treadway announced the indictment of Kansas doctor Stephen Schneider and his wife Linda for overprescribing painkillers. The indictment followed a familiar pattern: Treadway held a press conference, used terms like “pill mill” and “drug dealer,” and, with the aid of some questionable science, linked the Schneiders to 56 alleged patient overdose deaths (Wichita Federal District Court Judge Monti Belot later reduced the number to four). Reynolds went to work on the Schneiders’ behalf. She organized patient protests outside their closed clinic, and encouraged them to speak out about how Schneider’s treatment had improved their lives. She paid for a billboard proclaiming the Schneiders’ innocence
The savvy and unusual countercampaign didn’t sit well with Treadway. She first tried to get a gag order preventing Reynolds from talking about the case in public. Judge Belot said no. Several of Schneider’s patients say they were then visited by federal agents, who forced their way into their homes and took documents (including a letter Schneider had sent one of them from prison). Treadway next asked the judge to move the case out of town, arguing that Reynolds’ advocacy had tainted the jury pool (never mind Treadway’s own press conference). Belot denied the change of venue request, too.
Treadway then launched a grand jury investigation of Reynolds, presumably for obstruction of justice, though she told Reynolds’ attorney that she would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was under way. She issued Reynolds a sweeping subpoena demanding all of her records for every case in which she has ever advocated on behalf of a doctor or patient—every e-mail, letter, and phone record, as well as Facebook wall posts and status updates. Complying cost Reynolds tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of labor. With help from the ACLU, Reynolds sued to have the subpoena quashed. She lost. A second judge, Julie A. Robinson, hit her with a $200 fine for contempt each day she didn’t comply. Robinson also declined Reynolds’ request to make the subpoena and related proceedings public, effectively imposing a seal on the subpoena, Reynolds’ challenge to it, and any materials related to either.
In the meantime, the Schneiders were convicted in federal court of drug trafficking. During their sentencing, Federal District Court Monti Belot called Reynolds “stupid” and “deranged,” and referred to the Pain Relief Network as a “Bozo the Clown outfit.”
You really need to read the entire piece. It’s just outrageous. There is something seriously wrong with Drug Warriors.
I’ve always been angry about this treatment of pain providers for a while, but my shoulder injury in January-March really brought the issue home. When you are in chronic, excruciating pain, anyone standing in between you and relief is just a monster. When I was sitting there for three months feeling like someone was stabbing me in the shoulder with an ice pick, pain medicine was a survival necessity. People in pain aren’t taking pills for the “high.” Hell, I bet a lot of pain users were like me- the drug somewhat stopped the pain, but brought on all sorts of other nasty side effects, like a histamine effect, and lethargy and confusion, etc., but the pain was so bad the trade-off was worth it. And under-prescribing pain killers out of fear of prosecution is as clear an example of the government getting in between you and your doctor as is possible.
This really is sick.