Thank goodness, a friend of mine was the ER doctor on call and he quickly gave me four hits of morphine, which quickly quieted me and made the rest of the morning a bit more tolerable. It was only the second time I had taken morphine, and both times the alternative was experiencing pain beyond my toleration limits.
When I was in graduate school at Auburn University, my wife worked as a counselor at a local hospital, and one of her clients was a man who was 92 years old who had been put into care because he was “suicidal.” What had driven him to such a state? The government said he was “addicted” to pain medication and denied him the drugs that that kept him from being in a state of constant pain.
Unfortunately, this man’s story is the story of a lot of people in this country who live in agony due to health conditions or have complications post-surgery that leave them debilitated. Siobhan Reynolds had a husband with a serious congenital connective disorder who seemed to be responding to treatment from Dr. William Hurwitz, who then was a highly-respected pain specialist practicing in Virginia.
Unfortunately for both Soibhan’s husband and Dr. Hurwitz, Paul McNulty was the U.S. attorney in that area and he had dedicated himself to the directives from then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, which ramped up not only the Drug War but also the entire culture of lying and misconduct that now is utterly out of control at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic). One of the areas of emphasis for the McNulty-Ashcroft DOJ was going after doctors writing pain prescriptions, and Dr. Hurwitz’s high profile made him the perfect target for the feds.
Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine has documented the Hurwitz persecution here, here, and here, and Harvey Silverglate gives the case a lot of attention in his outstanding Three Felonies a Day. McNulty’s efforts to destroy Dr. Hurwitz also translated into an effort to destroy those patients who had responded positively to the doctor’s treatments, and one of those patients was Siobhan’s husband Sean.
Two years after Dr. Hurwitz was convicted by a federal jury, Sean died of a cerebral brain hemorrhage, and whether or not it was due to the fact that his debilitating pain elevated his blood pressure to dangerous levels, nonetheless he was dead and his wife blamed the feds. Unlike many people who just accept federally-sponsored injustices and just go away, Siobhan Reynolds fought back by establishing the Pain Relief Network, which became a voice in support of doctors accused by federal prosecutors of writing pain prescriptions that, according to the government, “have no medical purpose.”
Ironically, physicians do not determine what constitutes a “medical purpose.” That is done by political appointees and bureaucrats at the Drug Enforcement Administration and DOJ, even though none of them are medically qualified to make such judgments. However, they are “politically-qualified,” and they do have the power and authority to destroy the lives of others, and many of them revel in just that.
Ms. Reynolds was not someone who would be silenced. Radley Balko writes:
Reynolds coached doctors under investigation on how to fight back. She says she's never been compensated to intervene on behalf of a doctor, other than an occasional airline ticket or hotel accommodations while she was in town to help out. "I moved in with my mother," she says. She played a crucial role in getting media outlets like Newsweek and the New York Times to look at the real problem of undertreated pain. At the same time, Reynolds' passion can make her seem unreasonable and extreme. She has been sharply critical of the medical establishment for failing to stand up for accused physicians, and she has angered more than a few prosecutors, regulators, and politicians.Unfortunately for Ms. Reynolds and for all of the people she had helped, the feds decided that the last thing they wanted was a public critic who might actually be responsible for holding federal prosecutors and investigators responsible for what they were doing and saying. When Ms. Reynolds and the Pain Relief Network decided to support Stephen and Linda Schneider, who were on trial in Kansas for (What else?) writing pain medication prescriptions that “had no medical purpose, federal prosecutor Tanya Treadway fought back by abusing the law.
Treadway unsuccessfully demanded a gag order against Ms. Reynolds and the PRN, and then sought a change of venue, which the judge in the case also refused. Undaunted, Treadway first started a campaign of harassing Dr. Schneider’s patients and then Treadway decided to seek possible criminal charges for “obstruction of justice” against Ms. Reynolds. Radley Balko writes:
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.What makes things even worse is that Treadway is demanding that the grand jury proceedings and material be kept secret. The irony should not be lost here. Federal prosecutors are notorious for leaking grand jury material when it helps their cases. For example, the reason Martha Stewart even met with federal investigators (the meeting that was ground zero for the charges against her) without counsel was because U.S. Attorney James Comey’s staff illegally was leaking grand jury material to the media in order to damage the stock price of Martha Stewart Living.
(While it is a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison for leaking grand jury material, no federal prosecutor ever has been indicted or convicted of such acts, despite the fact that this is a known and regular practice of the feds. So, Treadway is able to pursue a “Heads I win, tails you lose” strategy, given that she does not have to worry about accountability.)
The investigation has depleted the funds for the PRN and Ms. Reynolds finally shut it down. In announcing the closing of her organization, Ms. Reynolds pointed out the legal irony in a recent Facebook post:
It is important to note that PRN has been refused standing in federal court to sue the federal government in defense of the patients’ Constitutional rights; this, when the Sierra Club has been given leave to sue powerful entities on behalf of insects.She closes with this warning:
The Drug War is a beast. I believe that the only effort that has a chance at changing the current state of affairs is the Liberty Movement, informally led by Congressman Ron Paul. (Emphasis mine)Thus, it ends for Siobhan Reynolds. A federal prosecutor is trying to bring criminal charges against someone who simply had the courage to speak out against prosecutorial misconduct and to stand up for those patients who must suffer needlessly because, frankly, prosecutors want to boost their own careers by destroying the lives of doctors, their families, and their patients.
Ms. Reynolds did not quit because she lost courage; she quit because the government stacked the deck against her. She quit because a federal prosecutor is able to manipulate the legal system and the judges refuse to object to an obvious injustice.
Siobhan Reynolds is a remarkable person, someone who has my full admiration and the admiration of many other people. Furthermore, she has paid a real price for standing up to the feds and now has exposed just what a morally-bankrupt operation the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) really is, and the feds do not take kindly to people who reveal the immorality of federal prosecutors.
Indeed, the Drug War is a beast, but it is a beast only because of the beasts that inhabit that zoo known as the DOJ. The beasts at the DOJ demonstrate the conscience of a snake and the morality of a shark. Would be that Siobhan could have stood against them longer, but even for that brief time, she was able to get out the message that those who pursue the Drug War against doctors do not do so because of concern for patients, but because the real purpose of the DOJ is to destroy the innocent.