Pain doctor’s case goes to federal jury.
Send him your prayers and note of support: [email protected]
Your thoughts and prayers are needed for one of your colleagues today.
case of the
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 -- which is exactly what the prosecutor wanted.
A verdict may be in before today is over.
You may send a note of support to Dr. Hurwitz at [email protected]
Pasted below is an article appearing in the Richmond (VA) newspaper, which has provided extremely balanced coverage of this trial, the previous trial of Dr. Hurwitz’s colleague, Cecil Knox, M.D.
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons
(520) 325-4230 Fax
N.Va. jury set to get painkiller case
BY PAUL BRADLEY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
12/10/2004 - Richmond,
ALEXANDRIA - A federal jury was asked yesterday to decide between two widely
disparate descriptions of a prominent Northern Virginia doctor accused of
fueling a black market in potent prescription drugs.
Did Dr. William E. Hurwitz, as prosecutors alleged in closing arguments,
look the other way when he learned some of his patients were selling and
abusing the medications he prescribed for them?
Or, as defense lawyers contended, is Hurwitz a caring, courageous physician
who was duped by a small number of patients enrolled in a practice that
helped hundreds of other people deal with their chronic pain?
After a six-week trial and hearing from more than 75 witnesses, the jury is
to begin deliberations this morning on a 62-count indictment against
Hurwitz. If convicted of the most serious charges, the
be sentenced to life in prison.
The charges against Hurwitz stem from a two-year federal investigation into
doctors, pharmacists and patients who allegedly marketed in potent
prescription drugs, primarily OxyContin, a widely abused and highly
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi said Hurwitz was a reckless doctor whose
therapies hooked some of his patients on drugs and resulted in the deaths of
at least two of them.
"The defendant was a key factor in making [patients] addicts, sellers and
diverters," he said. "He gave them the keys to their own destruction."
Rossi added: "The defendant's pain practice was out of control. For many
patients, the defendant ran a pill mill."
Rossi said Hurwitz repeatedly ignored "red flags and loud gongs" - signs
that his patients were abusing illicit drugs, such as the appearance of
needle tracks on their arms. Rossi said Hurwitz was indifferent upon
learning that some patients had been arrested on drug charges.
Hurwitz, who earned a reputation as an unconventional pioneer in the use of
potent drugs to combat chronic pain, has run afoul of authorities before. He
has been disciplined by medical boards in
Hurwitz has acknowledged that he prescribed massive amounts of painkillers
to some patients, but insisted he always did so for sound medical reasons.
Defense lawyer Patrick Hallinan said any mistakes Hurwitz has made should be
handled by those civil boards, rather than in criminal court.
"What this case is about is the question of who sets the medical standards
for people in this country," he said. "Is it the clinicians, or is it law
Hallinan said Hurwitz fell victim to his own conviction that all patients
with chronic pain are entitled to treatment, even those who have had brushes
with the law or have drug problems.
A small number of patients abused the doctor's trust by selling or abusing
legitimate prescriptions, Hallinan said. They later were enlisted as
informants by the Drug Enforcement Administration as it investigated
Hurwitz, he added.
Hurwitz "gave these people a credibility they didn't deserve," Hallinan
said. "His belief in his ethical duty was the key to the door to these
predators, these thieves. Dr. Hurwitz, unfortunately, was the perfect mark
for these people."
"He never wrote a prescription that he didn't believe was going to be used
by that patient to relieve his pain," Hallinan said.
Rossi, noting that Hurwitz has medical and law degrees while most of his
patients never went to college, implored the jury to reject defense
assertions that Hurwitz was duped.
"This defendant has a mind like a steel trap," he said.
Hurwitz treated about 300 patients from across the country from the late
1990s to 2002, receiving a $1,000 initiation fee and monthly fees of up to
$250 for each patient enrolled in the practice. Much of the evidence
presented at his trial came from former patients who struck plea deals and
testified against him.