I am sorry to report that Siobhan Reynolds, a tireless advocate for pain patients who suffer needlessly because of the war on drugs, died on Saturday in a plane crash near Ohio's Vinton County Airport. She was 50.
Reynolds, whom I first met about eight years ago at a Capitol Hill forum on the undertreatment of pain, became passionately involved in the issue because of her former husband's difficulty in obtaining the medication he needed to keep his pain under control, which she believed hastened his death. She founded the Pain Relief Network in 2003 to support patients like Richard Paey, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for improperly obtaining narcotics and who was pardoned largely due to Reynolds' efforts, and doctors like William Hurwitz, who repeatedly tangled with state regulators, the DEA, and federal prosecutors because he was willing to treat patients who had nowhere else to go for relief. Reynolds traveled the country to defend doctors she believed had been wrongly maligned as "pill mill" operators, highlighting the testimonials of patients who depended on these physicians to help make their lives bearable. In the process she made an enemy of Tanya Treadway, a federal prosecutor whose vindictive grand jury investigation of Reynolds (which never resulted in criminal charges) drove the Pain Relief Network out of business.
I am proud to say that the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website and Reason magazine, took Reynolds' side in this dispute, arguing in a friend-of-the-court brief (along with the Institute for Justice) that Treadway was abusing the grand jury process to silence a critic who was guilty of nothing but peaceful advocacy. Illustrating that abuse and the lack of transparency that allowed it, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit sealed Reason's brief (now available here), which was based entirely on publicly available information, along with all the other documents in the case, including the court's own ruling. Some of that material was unsealed after Reynolds asked the Supreme Court to intervene, but it ultimately declined to hear the case.
What was it that so offended Treadway? Reynolds organized protests in response to Treadway's prosecution of Kansas doctor Stephen Schneider. She talked to his patients and urged them to tell their stories. Her group sponsored a billboard in Wichita that proclaimed "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone." It produced a documentary that dramatized the conflict between drug control and pain control. In short, Reynolds vigorously exercised her First Amendment rights, and she did so in a way that discomfited people in power, highlighting the human impact of their decisions. Treadway's effort to intimidate Reynolds is a tribute to her courage, persistence, and effectiveness.