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Jury deliberates in federal pain prosecution - 12/10/04

The case of the U.S. vs William Hurwitz in now in the hands of the jury, who began deliberations Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Hurwitz, a Virginia pain specialist, has been accused of drug trafficking and enabling a drug conspiracy to divert pain medications. His arrest sparked U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi’s now-infamous comment likening doctors to terrorists – “We will track down these doctors like the Taliban.”

The government claims that Dr. Hurwitz knowingly prescribed medications for patients who then sold them. The defense has shown that the patients in question were experienced con artists who also managed to con the DEA as well. At least two of the prosecutor’s “star witnesses” were getting prescriptions from other doctors even while being “handled” by the DEA to go undercover to gather evidence against Dr. Hurwitz.

As defense attorney Hallanan said, "these people were predators...and had played doctors for years" to get drugs. And that it was because of Dr. Hurwitz's belief in his responsibility to treat patients in pain without making judgment about whether they were good enough people to “deserve” treatment. “His belief in his ethical duty is the key to the door of his office for these thieves and predators.”

An AAPS representative heard Dr. Hurwitz's testimony and closing arguments, and reports that it should be obvious to the jury that he had no direct knowledge of the patients' diversion. But with more than 60 separate counts pending against him, a complete vindication is a tough sell – exactly what the prosecutor wanted.

A verdict may be in before today is over.

More information:

“Healers and Dealers” by Jacob Sullum, Reason magazine, 12/10/04

“N. VA jury to get painkiller case” by Paul Bradley, Richmond Times Dispatch, 12/9/04

More links to information on pain management

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