Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Life Sentence Sought for Va. Pain Doctor

Read this article in the Washington Post.
The government accused Hurwitz of prescribing excessive amounts of dangerous drugs -- in one instance 1,600 pills a day -- to addicts and others, some of whom then sold the medication on a lucrative black market.


Patient advocates have portrayed Hurwitz as a heroic figure who helped patients nobody else would treat. Advocates reacted with shock to the government's call for a life sentence.


Prosecutors quoted from letters sent to the judge by relatives of Hurwitz's victims. One was from Mary Meyer, mother of Linda Lalmond, who died of a drug overdose in Fairfax County in 2000 shortly after meeting Hurwitz. She wrote that her daughter "left home hopeful and smiling, had 2 visits with Dr. Hurwitz and was returned home in a container."

"I request that Dr. Hurwitz be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law," Meyer wrote.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has written a letter to the judge:
We write to express in the strongest terms possible how unjust we think it would be to punish the caring and devoted Dr. Hurwitz with a lengthy incarceration. This man, whom we have known for nearly ten years, is a colleague dedicated to helping his patients in every way. He devoted himself in his 24/7 availability and tireless research to aid his patients, and the United States of America should not punish him with a virtual life sentence.

I can't argue that Dr. Hurwitz was not dedicated to his patients or that he didn't devoted "himself in his 24/7 availability and tireless research," but I am aware of one case where the care, IMHO, was incredibly inappopriate and one in which I cannot see how Dr. Hurwitz could have reasonably conceived that the patient was actually using all of the drugs he prescribed. I counted the prescriptions and the acetaminophen content would have killed the patient if she had been taking the drugs as prescribed. Not to mention that the narcotic doses were so high that I don't see how the patient could have been awake long enough to take all the drugs that were prescribed.

I don't know the particulars of this legal case, but I was not unhappy to see Dr. Hurwitz close his clinic.