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Also effective was the defense expert, Frank Fisher, MD, one of the few physicians to be exonerated after being prosecuted for over-prescribing. He called the prosecution "a crime against humanity," and in conjunction with the defense team, debunked the idea that cutting off pain medication to people with past or even present addictions does anything to help them.
"They showed addictionology for the sham science that it is," says Reynolds, explaining that in previous cases, the defense often had a hard time getting the jury to see that medications can't "make" people into addicts and that no one, addicted or otherwise, benefits from a system where doctors presume all pain is faked.
"The government position is that the doctor wasn't cruel enough," she adds, describing how hard it was for previous defense teams to debunk the notion that addiction can be prevented or treated by stopping or failing to prescribe pain medication.
"By making the pain patients real, we made the good guys and the bad guys change places—and that's hard to do," she says.
Last week, Heberle was found not guilty on all charges. Unfortunately, at least one patient did not live to see the verdict— she had committed suicide, unable to find another doctor to prescribe the medications she needed. And Heberle, like Fisher, will no longer practice medicine, leaving many patients still without help.
As Reynolds asks, "How can they call this protecting the public health?" We hope the Heberle case is the beginning of the end of these senseless prosecutions.