Sunday, March 4, 2012

Searching for a Pain Doc: Part 2

You might remember when Oxycontin came out. It became the drug of choice in treating pain patients because it didn’t destroy the liver and other organs like some pain medications did. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a few people to figure out they could defeat the drug’s unique time release mechanism by crushing and snorting the pills. And then it didn’t take long for people to start dying from overdoses. And then it didn’t take long for the feds to get involved.

Headlines about ‘Hillbilly Heroin’ started popping up around the country. What could the government do to stop it? The DEA formed a task force. Next thing you know, they were going after doctors. The prescription pad was the source of Oxycontin, so that’s where they would dry it up. If they took a few docs down…hard…other docs would be afraid to prescribe narcotics for fear of being next. Everyone could save for another day the question of how legitimate pain patients might find relief. It was a simple plan.

It might seem they would have worked with the docs to solve the problem, but there’s the whole culture thing: prosecutors like to prosecute. They’re what you might call a breed unto themselves. I used to buy the notion they were do-gooders trying to rid society of its shadier types. Then I interned in the U.S. Attorney’s office during my third year in law school and saw a rather scary mentality lurking about, just off in the corner where everyone could tap into it on a regular basis. It was kind of a ‘Let’s get ‘em cuz we can’ combined with a ‘How dare they resist; now they’re really asking for it’ type thing.

So, the Task Force edict went out. They started looking for targets. My husband, Cecil, made a good one. What legitimate doctor wears holey jeans and keeps his office like Bubba’s fraternity house?

They came after him like he was some kind of Mafioso. And when he didn’t like having feds raid his office and his home with guns and battering rams, when he didn’t care for them hauling out his patients’ charts by the truck load, they ramped things up and kept coming, and kept coming some more. There were seven indictments before they were done.

So, first thousands of patients found the pain doc they’d been searching for. Then the feds found him and took him down… hard. People looked on, largely aghast. But that didn’t stop the show.

To be fair, if I really stretched my imagination, I could say the prosecutors and their agents and the experts they brought in probably thought they were doing the right thing, on some level. There’s room to rationalize it. And we might all appreciate having Big Brother out there hovering over our lives, except, last time any of us checked, not that many cops or prosecutors had gone to medical school. 

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