Does Anyone Want This Standard Applied to Them?

OK you folks out there -- ask yourself if you would like the following standard for going to jail applied to yourself.

Over the weekend, Dr. Hurwitz was convicted on drug trafficking charges when it was found that some of his patients were reselling their pain pills without his knowledgeJohn Tierney interviewed several of the jurors: (via Hit and Run)

The evidence in the case "“ including conversatons during office
visits that were furtively recorded by patients cooperating with
narcotics agents "“ showed that Dr. Hurwitz was being conned. On one
recording, a patient who'd been selling his OxyContins bragged to his
wife (and fellow dealer) that Dr. Hurwitz "trusts the [expletive] out
of me."

"Those patients used the doctor shamelessly," said a juror I'll call
Juror 1. (All three jurors, citing the controversy over the case, spoke
to me on condition of anonymity, so I'll refer to them by numbers.)
This juror added, "They exploited him. I didn't see him getting
anything financial out of it. Many of his patients weren't even paying
him. He had to believe that he was just treating them for pain."

The other jurors agreed. "There was no financial benefit to him that
was very evident to us," Juror 2 said. "It was a really hard case for
all of us. I think that Dr. Hurwitz really did care about his patients."

So why convict him? "There were just some times he fell down on the
job," Juror 2 said. The third juror echoed that argument using the
prosecution's language: "There were red flags he should have seen."

Plenty of doctors would agree that he should have paid more
attention to those warning signs. Plenty would agree that he fell down
on the job. Some have already said he should have lost his medical
license. But falling down on the job is generally not a criminal
offense, especially when there's no criminal intent.

Any of you want to go to jail for making a mistake on the job?  Note that this was NOT a malpractice case, and jurors were told that it was not.  Hurwitz was convicted, in effect, for caring about and trusting his patients.  Is this the message you want your doctor to get, that he should not trust what you say and should avoid fully treating your pain?  Because that is the message your doctor just received.

Related case of Richard Paey here, who went to jail for 25 years for what a jury decided was over-medicating his pain.


  1. me:

    I hate reading these stories

    Makes me so mad

    Don't want to post my name
    so i can plant another plant in honor of the doctor

  2. Bill:

    I guess I would not come to the same conclusion you did. The jury heard the evidence. The prosecutor exercised prosecutorial discretion in bringing the case. A judge presided over the case to ensure that everything was done properly, and I presume the doctor was represented by counsel. From that I would presume that the doctor broke a law and was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many statutes which prohibit criminally reckless or negligent behavior. Giving people unlimited access to narcotics seems like something that would be illegal.

  3. bob:

    Well that's sure going to help doctors trust and care for their patients. Hope some of those jury members (and the judge) get chronic pain sometime in their lives and then the doctor tells them to go take a paracetamol because he can't prescribe anything better for fear of going to jail..gosh I am glad that I don't live in the USA. My doctor prescribes strong painkillers for me and has done for years. It makes the difference between living a productive life and being almost bed-ridden.

    Bill : it's a failure of common sense. The "drugs are evil" meme has gone too far...

  4. Rob:

    Two words should have summed up this case: Jury Nullification

  5. tribal elder:

    These kinds of cases will leave other Americans in unbearable pain. It will have a chilling effect on the prescribing of pain relief medication for the truly ill.

    The only person who is better off for this outcome is the prosecutor, whose win/loss record looks better. Oh, is there a civil forfeiture proceeding against the doc's house, car, 401k ... ?