Saturday, February 02, 2008

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The Justice Department is at it again. Protecting us from unscrupulous doctors. The kind that prescribe too much pain medication for those in pain.

In a drama that has been played out all too many times across the country in recent years, the Justice Department's campaign against prescription drug abuse -- if you can call it that -- came in crushing fashion to Haysville, Kansas, last month. Now, a popular pain management physician and his nurse wife are being held without bond and more than a thousand patients at his clinic are without a doctor, but the US Attorney and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts say they are protecting the public health.

It all started December 20, when federal agents arrested Dr. Stephen Schneider, operator of the Schneider Medical Clinic, and his wife and business manager, Linda, on a 34-count indictment charging them with operating a "pill mill" at their clinic. The indictment charges that Schneider and his assistants "unlawfully" wrote prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers, that at least 56 of Schneiders' patients died of drug overdoses between 2002 and 2007, and that Schneider and his assistants prescribed pain relievers "outside the course of usual medical practice and not for legitimate medical purpose."

In their press release announcing the arrests, federal prosecutors also said that four patients died "as a direct result of Schneider's actions," but the indictment does not charge Schneider or anyone else with murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide. In all four deaths, the patients died of drug overdoses, with prosecutors claiming Schneider ignored signs they were becoming addicted to the drugs or abusing them.
Let me see if I get this. You are in pain. You ask for medical help. When you find you can't control your drug use it is your doctor's fault. So what is the doctor supposed to do? Make you come to his office daily for your required dose? And the doctor is supposed to watch for signs? What is wrong with the patient watching for signs and communicating with the doctor?

Ah, but it gets better. Siobhan Reynolds of the Pain Relief Network is quoted saying:
The root of the problem, said Reynolds, is the Controlled Substances Act, under which the Justice Department determines what constitutes proper medical practice and what doesn't. "Under the act, the exchange of money for drugs is presumptively illegal, and doctors have to show they are doing medicine in an 'authorized fashion' approved by the Justice Department. Under the act, doctors are effectively presumed guilty until proven innocent. It's backwards, and it helps explain why it is so difficult to win these cases," she said.

The Pain Relief Network will shortly bring a federal lawsuit challenging the Controlled Substance Act, Reynolds said. "The act is profoundly unconstitutional and unlawful. It reverses the presumption of innocence, and we think we can win that challenge, even if we have to go to the Supreme Court."

While the network had vowed to file the lawsuit last month, it hasn't happened yet. That's because the network has been too busy putting out fires in Kansas, she said, adding that the lawsuit will be filed soon.

Meanwhile, Dr. Schneider and his wife remain jailed without bond at the request of federal prosecutors pending a first court date later this month. His patients are now scrambling to find replacement doctors with little success, especially now that other local doctors see what could await them if they apply aggressive opioid pain management treatments. And a chill as cold as the February wind is settling in over pain treatment on the Kansas plains.
The difficulty is that everyone responds to pain and drugs differently. Some require large amounts of drugs for small amounts of pain and others require small amounts of drugs for large amounts of pain. How in the heck can the Justice Dept. decide which is which? Are they licensed to practice medicine?

H/T Stop The Drug War

Cross Posted at Classical Values


sicntired said...

in patient that's been on a waiting list for "proper" pain management for as long as I can remember.I am familiar with the problem.I live in British Columbia,Canada.Where a witch hunt in the 80's took the licenses of most,if not all,doctors that dared to take pain on.It is now impossible to find a family doctor that will prescribe even minimal amounts of opiates.I have a specialist and have had to go to a methadone clinic to get an amount of morphine that works for a small portion of the day.I have to take methadone as well,as those are the rules.The methadone is an agonist and decreases the effect of the morphine.In a mis-guided attempt to prevent a few people from abusing drugs.A whole province has to do without proper pain management.What you describe is only the beginning.That picking off of single doctors will only satisfy the DEA for a time.They will probably go after all doctors prescribing opiates eventually.Like the government did here.

WomanHonorThyself said...

good read...more of the nanny state eh!