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Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years

Virginia medical doctor William Hurwitz was sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison today for over-prescribing pain medication.

Prosecutors said Hurwitz knowingly turned a blind eye to patients who were obvious drug addicts and drug dealers, and that his waiting room was at times filled with stoned, sleeping patients with track marks on their arms from drug abuse. Patients received prescriptions for as many as 1,600 pills a day. An FBI agent's affidavit indicated that 21 percent of Hurwitz's patients had criminal records.

Hurwitz's supporters packed the courtroom:

About 100 of Hurwitz's supporters packed the federal courtroom in Alexandria, and several testified that Hurwitz saved them from debilitating pain that other doctors were unwilling to treat.

"I was sick as a dog. I was 90 pounds soaking wet, and I wanted to die. If not for that man, I would be dead" said Eyssel Gurganus of Goldsboro, N.C., pointing to Hurwitz. "I had been to 36 doctors, and every doctor is afraid of prosecution."

The Los Angeles Times has some background here.

Since the Hurwitz case began, 30 state attorneys general have assailed the Bush administration's Justice Department for its pain-pill policies, saying in a joint letter in January that state and federal policies were increasingly at odds on how to balance legitimate pain treatment with drug enforcement.

And during the Hurwitz trial, a group of eminent medical authorities, all past presidents of the American Pain Society, lambasted one of the Justice Department's expert witnesses for "misrepresentations" that have damaged the ability of doctors to treat pain without fear of prosecution.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose a life sentence.

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  • Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 04:12:53 PM EST
    Sounds like Kdog's kinda place.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#2)
    by Johnny on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 07:25:46 PM EST
    Can't stand to see a doctor who might think drugs actually help... Those weakling liberals addicted to painkillers should all rot in prison, and that weakling liberal doctor should be hanged, in public, quickly. People addicted to painkillers should be hunted down... Oh wait, I forgot about Limbaugh. Never mind, it was a temporary weakness on this doctors part, and he feels really bad.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 07:53:06 PM EST
    Patients received prescriptions for as many as 1,600 pills a day. WHA-WHA-WHAAAT?? That's probably enough pills per person per day to kill 100 people. The doctor should be charged with attempted murder.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 11:21:45 PM EST
    Do we really know the real story?

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 12:52:57 AM EST
    I don't know about this particular case, but it is a problem--my mom worked as a pharmacy tech for almost 15 years, and she had people coming in every day with prescriptions for everything from adult OD quantities of opiates for a six month old baby to lethal amounts of tranquilizers prescribed for PMS. And not just from one or two doctors, but lots of them. And the only one her employer allowed her to turn in was a woman who was given prescriptions for gigantic amounts of several narcotics by several different doctors, written for her and her kid, and was stupid enough to bring them all into the same store and charge it all to Medicaid. And she wasn't even a junkie, she was a dealer! Addicted not to the pills but to the free money she got by selling them. There are lots of doctors who will just write prescriptions for whatever patients ask for. The government managed to curb that practice to a great extent with regards to antibiotic over-prescription by doing a big public education campaign. Given that until recently training in palliative care has been almost nonexistent, wouldn't it make sense for the FDA to do another PR campaign to educate doctors about when it's appropriate to prescribe narcotics? And it goes both ways--there are many doctors who do way too little to keep patients comfortable, and they need to be educated as well.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 01:34:20 AM EST
    Hey do you think they will pass a law that will criminalize pharmacists that don't destribute the meds?

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:47:03 AM EST
    Isn't this Rush scumbaugh's personal Physician? Was rush one of those in the audience? Horse Rush regularly bought 2000+ pills at a time. Why aren't his doctors on the dock?

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:51:52 AM EST
    Hey folks i just learned Rush is actually posting here under the name Johnny! :) Only kidding john but you must admit you do sound a lot like that two faced Bas***d pill popping junkie.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:53:56 AM EST
    Johnny: I'm sorry I rambled before I read your entire comment. I'm taking my foot out of my mouth right now.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#10)
    by Johnny on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 09:01:15 AM EST
    LOL ED, it's ok!

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 10:05:44 AM EST
    Chew vigorously, ED, you don't want to choke! :-)

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 05:01:44 PM EST
    When I was doing research for my book on buying drugs online, I was amazed to discover that the word "politics" plays a big part in pain and its control, especially with the U.S. While I've heard differing accounts with this doctor, I've yet to read anything that verifies that he was doing anything but being careless because he was busy. He was providing far more services for chronic pain than just writing 'scripts - and the 'script writers only account for a very small percentage of doctors. Most prosecutors will tell you that. But there's more that ties a case like the prosecution of this doctor and the ethics of pain control to a hot button case like Terri Schiavo than may meet the eye. The hue and cry that the hospice was somehow trying to murder her with morphine gave us a glimpse. We've really got to take a serious look at how certain interests are inserting themselves between a patient and their doctor. Trust me, I'm no fan of "better living through pharmacopia" alone, but I was stunned at the competing interests involved. We might give some attention in the press about how drug lobbyists are affecting how doctors prescribe, but none to how so-called moralists are affecting adequate patient care for everyone. When they go after a doctor blinding writing 'scripts, I'm all for it. But some of those targeted in these cases have been doctors taking enormous risks to try to treat patients humanely. And when you're very ill or in deep pain, I suspect you'd very much like that doctor treating you rather than someone who's worried a prosecutor is watching his or her every move. Some chronic pain specialists operate under incredible scrutiny, for example. Kate J. Chase Author "Buying Rx Drugs Online: Avoiding a Prescription for Disaster"

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#13)
    by pigwiggle on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 05:11:23 PM EST
    Demand begets supply. Lets have a race; the DEA wins the drug war before I empty the oceans a teaspoon at a go. Place your bets.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 16, 2005 at 02:16:58 AM EST
    We need a regime change here and badly. Gonzales is going to be far worse than 'ol what's his name. This is a very serious problem. Almost any serious medical study that examines the problem of pain comes away with an estimate that millions of Americans are suffering horribily due to a timidity to use narcotics for pain control. This will only make it far worse. The government will now gleefully promotes more suffering to support their ideology, once again. It's as simple as that. May they all rot in the lowest bowels of hell.

    Re: Pain Doctor Sentenced to 25 Years (none / 0) (#15)
    by Richard Aubrey on Sat Apr 16, 2005 at 11:30:49 AM EST
    There was a doc in our area who got put away for selling scrips. All he had in the office was a desk and a bunch of folding chairs. The parking lot was jammed with his patients' "friends". Sort of like this guy, sounds like.