The Case of the Purged Pamphlet

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A story in today's Washington Post suggests why the DEA decided to disown its own advice regarding painkiller prescriptions: The document was useful to doctors accused of being too loose with narcotics. In late September, the Post reports, lawyers for William Hurwitz, a McLean, Virginia, physician whose drug trafficking trial is scheduled to begin next month, tried to introduce the painkiller pamphlet as evidence that his use of opioids was legitimate.

Several weeks later, the DEA took the document off its Web site and said it was not official policy.

Twelve days after that, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, who is prosecuting Hurwitz, filed a motion in the case asking that the guidelines be excluded as evidence, again saying that they do "not have the force and effect of law."

"It seems pretty clear that they felt they had to try to get rid of the guidelines because they supported so many parts of our case," said Hurwitz's defense attorney, Patrick Hallinan. "If the Justice Department followed the guidelines, there would be no reason to arrest and charge Dr. Hurwitz."

[Thanks to Alan Vanneman for the link.]

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  1. No double cross is too heinous for our government. The only thing I can hope is that the about-face will be construed as entrapment, by presenting guidelines ostensibly to give further definition to fuzzy laws on the matter, then pulling them away when DEA needs to get a prosecution.

    Next gov’t move: redacting the pamphlet for “national security” reasons.

  2. Speaking of skullduggery, when will CBS finish investigating Dan?

  3. Of course, this blatant treachery by prosecutors struggling to obtain a conviction should in no way detract from our ability to trust them when they want to hold citizens without trial based solely on the government’s assurances that the defendant is guilty. Just because they can’t be trusted to tell the truth in court doesn’t mean they would ever lie or make mistakes when holding people without trial.

  4. But thoreau, it’s for the kids.

  5. fuck the kids, i hate kids

  6. I love kids! I’m just rarely hungry enough to eat a whole one.

  7. “DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy embraced them and said in a statement: “The medical and law enforcement communities continue to work together to carefully balance the needs of legitimate patients for pain medications against the equally compelling need to protect the public from the risk of addiction and even possible death from these medications. . .”

    There it is. The crux of the whole drug war. Users and losers are higher on the food chain than the rest of us. Their lives and their health are far more valuable to our betters than the rights of the rest of us to live our lives in peace (or to smoke dope when the old arthritis acts up).

    Fuck you Karen, nothing you can do will keep one single person from becoming an addict if that person is determined to become one.

    And, children are fine as long as they’re medium rare.

  8. Wow, these people in the DEA never cease to amaze me.

  9. Following is from a friend in the medical field who posted on this Topic at another online forum.

    ——
    At a recent medical conference I attended we had two DEA diversion investigators speak as invited lecturers.
    The first 12 slides were poorly composed power point tower graphs showing where Alaska stood as compared to the nation in prescribing the “heavy hitters” Oxycotin, Vicodin, Methadone, and Percocet. These figures were based on grams per 100,000 population.

    He went on and on about Alaska being in the top 4 for these drugs and number one for methadone.

    Finally someone asked, “So what? What’s your point”? He was then given a quick lesson in statistical data and inference assumption.

    I asked him if he had any data on exactly what percentage of these drugs was diverted in Alaska. His answer was, “We don’t have the ability to determine that data”.

    I pointed out that Alaska is number one nationwide for….

    Most golfers per capita
    Most Ice Cream consumed per capita
    Most private pilots per capita
    Most privately owned aircraft per capita
    Most Harley Owners per capita
    Most 4wd vehicles per capita
    Most Commercial fishing injuries per capita
    Most people who disappear without a trace per capita
    Most logging injuries per capita
    Most sled dogs per capita.

    “So what’s your point”?

    He had great difficulty understanding that we have a young population that gets injured more then anywhere else and that just because his graph placed us in the top four he could not draw the inference that prescribers in Alaska were in any way more worrisome then anywhere else. Especially in light of the fact he had no data to support his inference that we are a leader in diversion PER CAPITA.

  10. And my own response to his post:

    From Frostbit: I asked him (DEA Dude) if he had any data on exactly what percentage of these drugs was diverted in Alaska. His answer was, “We don’t have the ability to determine that data”.

    Steve: This is a damning statement.

    When an in-demand product is overly regulated and/or made so difficult to obtain, a criminal market is created.

    Criminal drug dealers cannot be monitored.

    The DEA can tell you almost to the exact gram how much drug traffic flows through legal pharmacies.

    But they cannot tell you even one fact about illegal distribution, because it is done in secret.

    A regulated system is preferable to outright Prohibition, but excessive restrictions created by police officers (instead of doctors) results in a secondary market that is out of control and unmonitored.

  11. thoreau insightfully writes: “Of course, this blatant treachery by prosecutors struggling to obtain a conviction should in no way detract from our ability to trust them when they want to hold citizens without trial based solely on the government’s assurances that the defendant is guilty. Just because they can’t be trusted to tell the truth in court doesn’t mean they would ever lie or make mistakes when holding people without trial.”

    I think the prosecutors will lose this motion, or at least they should given that admin agencies guidelines are usually given evidentiary weight. But the larger point is yours, and is among the reasons I am a libertarian and not a conservative. It is popular, with much justification, to despise lawyers, except that so many give prosecutors a pass there.

    They shouldn’t.

    In my relatively brief experience in crim law practice, I was revolted at prosecutorial behavior and a complete indifference to whether an innocent person was being set up, or whether common sense or justice supported a particular prosecution. Nothing matters but the notch in the belt, and winning.

    Add in that cops lie ALL THE TIME, but that juries tend to think a badge means they seldom do, and I can almost long for the return of the Warren Court.

    Yes, there are some decent lawyers, including prosecutors, but far too many are like this asshole going after this doctor, a doctor who is “threatening” us all by relieving the pain of the dying or the intractably suffering. I hope that prosecutor, or one of his children, comes down with a hideously painful, untreatable ailment that needs aggressive medication for management of the agony….and they cannot get it. I seldom say such things, and I know it sounds disgusting, but what else can keep them from locking physicians and other in cages?

    The agony that causes must end, too. Prison is not a joke, and neither is the loss of one’s license to practice medicine.

    –Mona–

  12. Fascinating comments like one has come to now anticipate. Just a quick plug on small double beds. Please continue with your inspiring labors.

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