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News of the Day ... in Perspective

3/9/2004

Pain patient convicted in third trial

On their third attempt, Florida prosecutors managed to convict 45-year-old pain patient Richard Paey on charges carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison because more than 28 grams of a controlled substance were involved.

The patient has suffered back pain since a car crash with subsequent unsuccessful back surgery. He was convicted on 15 counts of drug trafficking, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, and possession of controlled substances.

The star witness for the prosecution was Dr. Steven Neurkowicz of New Jersey, a family physician who admitted to DEA investigators that he had sent Mr. Paey undated prescriptions for Percocet, Lortab, and Valium, when Paey couldn’t find a Florida physician to accept him as a patient. “When the penalty became losing his practice, he threw my client to the wolves,” stated defense attorney Robert Attridge.

Mr. Paey refused an offer of probation offered after his arrest in March, 1997. His wife, Dr. Linda Paey, an ophthalmologist, said he felt he needed to fight the charges, believing them to be misguided. The first trial ended in a mistrial, and the second in a conviction that was overturned.

“He was a sick suffering guy looking for some help,” she said. “You’d think there’d be some humanity in the system.” She believes her husband is collateral damage in the War on Drugs. “What is a prison sentence supposed to teach him? Not to be in pain?” (St. Petersburg Times, March 6, 2004).

Additional information:

AAPS congressional briefing on the politics of pain management: http://www.aapsonline.org/meeting/painmeet.htm.

Florida’s war on pain patients: www.aapsonline.org/painman/florida.htm

The DEA’s war on pain doctors: www.villagevoice.com/issues/0345/owen.php

The pain patient’s perspective: www.painreliefnetwork.org

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