The Drug War escalates.
From prosecuting doctors, to prosecuting their supporters!

I find the ongoing story of the federal government's campaign against an anti-pain activist to be horrifying.

It's bad enough that doctors are afraid to prescribe pain medication because the government is breathing down their necks. But now the government is going after people who are speaking up in defense of targeted doctors.

OK, regular readers know I'm biased, so let me get that out of the way. I don't think that the government has any business telling doctors how much pain medication they should prescribe, for what reason, or to whom. I think that drug addicts have just as much of a right to an untrammeled relationship with their doctors as anyone else, and I think that if a doctor wants to prescribe drugs to an addict he should be allowed to do so, even if that would only relieve symptoms of, but not cure, his addiction. That, however, is a crime, and not only can the doctor be arrested for it, but thanks to the war on drugs, compassionate conduct becomes a criminal enterprise:

Prescribing painkillers becomes drug trafficking, applying for insurance reimbursement becomes fraud, making bank deposits becomes money laundering, and working with people at the office becomes conspiracy.
While I think that's an outrage, I realize some people think that doctors who prescribe to addicts should go to jail. The problem is, when prescribing to addicts is a crime, that acts as a deterrent to prescribing to people who need narcotics for pain. Pain is inherently subjective, and because the system turns addicts into skillful and manipulative liars, how is a doctor supposed to know whether a claim of pain is "legitimate" or not? It makes him waste an inordinate amount of time, and turns him from a healer into a sort of "pain cop" whether he likes it or not.

Under this "system," a patient's plaintive cries for pain relief ("Doctor, I want Oxycontin! Doctor, please! I need more Oxycontin!") is likely to be seen as highly suspicious, as "drug-seeking behavior." And of course if it is the latter, the doctor has good reason to fear that law enforcement officials might go from breathing down his neck to raiding his office. If you think this is my paranoia, you don't know the ways of the street. An addict who gets Oxycontin from a doctor and later gets popped for selling some of it on the street would often be highly "motivated" to "cooperate" and say whatever the ambitious drug warriors might want him to say.

Call me biased, but I think this entire approach is horribly wrong, and it interferes with the practice of medicine. That's my opinion, and regardless of who agrees with me or whether I'm right or wrong, I at least have the right to express myself, and naturally, I would defend any doctor singled out by the government for prosecution.

I have a First Amendment right to do that, have I not?

According to the government, no!

Nine months after a federal judge rejected [Assistant United States Attorney] Treadway's attempt to gag Reynolds, the activist learned she was the subject of a grand jury investigation into possible obstruction of justice. Reynolds and PRN received subpoenas demanding their communications with dozens of people, including relatives of the Schneiders and members of their defense team. Tellingly, the material sought includes correspondence related to a PRN-commissioned billboard in Wichita proclaiming "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone."

Scott Michelman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Reynolds, says the interest in the billboard "confirms that this so-called investigation is about Siobhan Reynolds' speech....The most plausible explanation here is that the prosecutor is trying to shut Siobhan up."

Last week a federal judge rejected Reynolds' motion to quash the subpoenas on First Amendment grounds and imposed $200-a-day fines on her and PRN for refusing to comply. Reynolds plans to appeal. "This is a direct attempt to intimidate me and silence me," she told A.P.

Another item sought by the grand jury is a PRN documentary that discusses how the war on drugs affects pain treatment, a video Michelman calls "completely innocuous from a criminal perspective" and "absolutely protected speech." Its title, especially apt in light of Treadway's vindictive campaign against Reynolds, is The Chilling Effect.

So, apparently our government -- under President Obama -- thinks free speech does not include the right to criticize the war on doctors.

This is a national disgrace.

posted by Eric on 09.10.09 at 10:59 AM


Our political, social, moral and intellectual betters really just want us to shut up.

We have to push back. Hard.

I'm actually pretty mad at the guy who took the video of Officer Wesley Cheeks, Jr (professional shutter-upper and Constitutional non-scholar).
Why? Because he's apparently not pressing charges or suing or anything at all.
Why not?

We needed that. I got into it with a guy at Ace's about it. He was calling the guy with the sign a wussy (well, with a p), and saying we shouldn't waste our time.

I disagreed. I didn't see why the guy had to be arrested.
But I do see why he needs to press charges. Nobody cares crap one about it. They just waited out the outrage and the next guy might not have a video camera.

Veeshir   ·  September 10, 2009 4:39 PM

It didn't start under Obama. Bush was in on the deal too.

This is a classic example from 2004:

And Bill Clinton had similar cases on his watch.

M. Simon   ·  September 11, 2009 9:57 AM

It flows not from who happens to be the president, but from the law. As long as prescribing drugs to addicts remains a criminal offense, these cases will keep recurring.

Hurwitz, BTW, was a classic example of how doctors are forced into being drug cops:


Doctors are especially gullible because they have a truth bias: they are trained to treat patients by trusting what they say. Doctors are not good at detecting liars even when they have been warned, during experiments, that they will be visited at some point by an actor faking some condition (like back pain, arthritis or vascular headaches). In six studies reviewed by the Cornell researchers, doctors typically detected the bogus patient no more than 10 percent of the time, and the doctors were liable to mistakenly identify the real patients as fakes.

When treating people with chronic pain, doctors have to rely on what patients tell them because there is no proven way to diagnose or measure it. Also, there is no standard dosage of medicine: A prescription for opioids that would incapacitate or kill one patient might be barely enough to alleviate the pain of another.


Little wonder that many doctors won't write narcotics prescriptions at all. They refer patients to "pain specialists," who then have to play detective games. With their patients! (So if you complain about pain, you become a suspected drug seeker!)

What is behind this obsessive worrying about the possibility of an addict lying about pain to get a fix from a doctor? Who do they think they're protecting by locking up doctors? And from what?

Eric Scheie   ·  September 11, 2009 10:42 AM

What is behind this obsessive worrying about the possibility of an addict lying about pain to get a fix from a doctor? Who do they think they're protecting by locking up doctors? And from what?

I cannot understand people who want power over others. My mind just doesn't work that way.

All I do know is that control is what it's all about. No matter what they're trying to ban, it gives them more power and control over others.

That's a mindset I totally cannot understand.
I just know I don't like it.

As long as I'm not bothering anybody else, nobody should bother me.

Unfortunately, this sorry old world doesn't work that way.

Veeshir   ·  September 11, 2009 6:25 PM

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