Pain Doctor Gets 25 Years


Virginia pain doctor William Hurwitz, whose chief crime seems to have been trusting his patients too much, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison today for drug trafficking. It's not the life sentence the prosecutors asked for, but since he's 59 and there's no parole in the federal system, it's pretty damned close. He has several grounds for appeal, which I may discuss tomorrow when I'm feeling less depressed.

NEXT: CFP: Neat Stuff

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Unbelievable. Where are those activist judges when we need them?

  2. Just sick.

  3. You know, I’ve said before that I know a pain practicioner who knows him and doesn’t exactly trust him. (Yes, I know, that’s just thirdhand stuff so take it with a huge grain of salt.) I’ve said before that he’s probably not the best poster child.

    That still doesn’t make what’s happening to him any less unjust. I probably wouldn’t hold him up as a shining example of how a medical professional should practice, but that doesn’t mean he should spend 25 years in prison.

    Just sickening.

  4. Especially not as the victim of a vindictive Government waging holy war on drugs.

  5. Where are the revolutionaries when we need them?

    May all responsible for this travesty suffer greatly in life and death.

  6. Letting pain doctors off the hook means the terrorists have won.

  7. I wonder what happened to his patients-the ones that were actually guilty of the doctor’s crime. Perhaps, like Rush Lumbar, nothing.

  8. Sickening.

    Lotta good he’ll do in prison. The one place in the world where you can get heroin on about 8 hours notice and they’re sending the pain doctor there. Way to go.

    I’m going to go look at the DEA Drug Abuse Guide to lift me out of this black nightmarish fog.

  9. haha, lumbar…

    What I don’t get is why the “American Pain Society” was the one defending him. Doesn’t using an organization specifically dedicated to stuff like this kind of play into the kind of paranoid ignorance mongering that drug warriors like to use so much? If Joe and Martha Juror see that the people saying what the doctor did was ok are from some “pain society,” aren’t they probably going to think, “vested interest?”

    Why doesn’t some organization that would be beyond rebuke in the eyes of the average joe stand up and say that this is BS, like the AMA or such?

  10. Does anybody actually think that putting Hurwitz in prison will stop addicts from getting narcotics? Even if, hypothetically, all of his patients were drug abusers, incarcerating him would only remove a safe and comparatively easy source of drugs. And every patient who has a real medical need but doesn’t want to go to the black market will now have to find a new doctor.

    Good work, prosecutors!

  11. *sigh* There are times when all you want in the world is a violent revolution and for all those fuckhead legislators to get the guillotine. Jesus Christ, 25 years?! I believe Hurwitz probably was guilty of the “crime” he is charged with, but the problem is that there exist in our country punishable offenses which are entirely victimless. I don’t care how guilty or innocent he is. This just fucking sucks.

  12. Shed a tear for Dr. Hurwitz. Cry a river for what’s happening to our republic. This kind of tragic travesty of justice is what too frequently occurs when government is so unshackled from libertarian restraints. Consider that our tax dollars make this wickedness possible…

  13. Can we pull the feeding tube from the DEA?

  14. Oh Man. You totally killed my “smoke a joint for DARE” buzz. Now I’ll have to switch to whiskey. Fuck this is depressing. Hmm, looks like all I got in my pocket is a dime, two pennies, and a lint ball…. Anyone care to buy me a round? I’ll get you back soon as I’m on my feet again.

  15. What thoreau asked!

  16. Look. It doesn’t matter. We’re all fucked. Even the supercool straightedge libertarians who lend soooo much moral legitimacy. Being anti-drug is almost as popular as being pro-random-government-handout. Maybe even more. No sense worrying about one sloppy loser, let alone countless millions. He should probably rot for his unwitting contribution to the drug war effort.

  17. Being anti-drug is almost as popular as being pro-random-government-handout.

    I’m about as anti-drug as you’ll ever find. One of my relatives (a person whom I despise) is a money launderer in the drug trade (and has a friend who’s held important day jobs in the public sector), and at least two other relatives have put the family through hell as a result of drug addiction. And I volunteer at a homeless shelter where I’ve seen a lot of people who struggle with drug addiction. Nobody hates drugs more than I do.

    And I’m also as anti-prohibition as you’ll ever find. My only concern with respect to drugs is to help the addicts and put the gangsters out of business. And the best way to do that is to end prohibition: Bring it above ground. Keep the addicts, whose lives are already seriously unbalanced, far away from the thugs and crooks and cheats and liars and murderers of the underworld (not to mention the crooked government employees who aid the drug dealers). And keep the addicts far away from the amateur chemists who don’t care about purity and occasionally blow stuff up by mistake.

    I’m anti-drug and anti-prohibition, because prohibition has taken a very real problem and made it much, much, much, much worse.

  18. Well, don’t feel too bad for him folks. Remember, you’ve got 460,000 other ruined lives to feel for too.

    Holy fuck is that unbelievable.

  19. May the judge, the jury and every member of the DEA come down with an excruciatingly painful form of bone cancer, and have nothing stronger than Tylenol to deal with the pain. Amen.

  20. Well, I’m about as anti-drug as Thoreau is, though for somewhat less dramatic reasons.

    But what this case did for me is it made me want to find some way I can get pain medication, legally or illegally, to keep on hand in case I get sick and need it. I wonder how many other people feel the same way.

    Unintended consequences, you see. “Pour encourager les autres,” except what they’re encouraging is more of the behavior they’re trying to stop.

  21. Let me second Jennifer’s opinion and add that they should be told, to their face, by every doctor that they will not be given a prescription because the prosecutor’s past makes them fear arrest.

    That is justice.

  22. I second Eryk’s statement.

  23. Let me start off by saying that I’m against drug prohibition myself, and I think the sentence in this case is totally outrageous. However, as thoreau alluded to before, it’s not like this guy was just going along minding his own business when suddenly the drug cops busted down his door and carted him off to prison on these charges.

    His medical license was suspended twice, in 1991 and 1996, and he was forced to attend courses on spotting people who were trying to abuse the medical system to get otherwise illegal drugs. Anyone intelligent enough to become an MD should have known that he had to be more circumspect about his prescribing in order to stay out of trouble. Unjust? Yes. A raw deal for patients in pain? Yes. But this guy chose to fight the law, and as always, the law won, even though the law sucks.

  24. “Let me second Jennifer’s opinion and add that they should be told, to their face, by every doctor that they will not be given a prescription because the prosecutor’s past makes them fear arrest.

    That is justice.”

    My idea of justice for these fuckers is far less benign. If Jennifer’s suggestion came true they would probably get drugs illegally somehow… and experience no cognitive dissonance whatsoever.

  25. Cameron: Your post constitutes a potential terrorist threat against the lives of Members of Congress, which will be investigated thoroughly by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, using the tools which Congress has provided for us in the USA Patriot Act. We recommend that you have your bags packed in anticipation of transfer to Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation.

    Have a nice day.

  26. Maybe the good doctor should’ve raped a female jogger, or beat an old man to death with a tire iron. He would’ve received a lighter sentence.

  27. The worst unintended consequence of this is probably euthanasia. If someone has a painful disease what other option do they have? Compassionate conservatism is looking a tad heartless right now.

  28. I just hope that someday before I die, this bullshit changes, and people consider the former drug warriors akin to Soviets and Nazis.

    I don’t know if that will happen, but the drug war will end. Popular opinion is very slowly moving in that direction. I’ve changed a number of minds myself, and some of them were socially conservative minds, believe it or not. It’s not that hard really. Most people aren’t nearly as evil as those in the DEA (and Congress, etc.).

  29. I agree with Bill. I find that most conservatives I speak to are fairly open to reason on the topic of drug prohibition. Of course it’s much easier to change minds if you don’t start sniggering and talking about ‘munchies’ every time cannabis is mentioned. Not that I’m pointing fingers…

  30. For crying out loud!! All of you losers on this site need to stop your whining. Hurwitz was caught on tape talking to patients about their drug dealing and then he continued his “high dose” opioid therapy. Suspended twice by the Board of Medicine and had cops calling him telling him they had arrested his patients selling their meds. Patients even told him on tape they were selling his drugs!! Oh by the way . . . one patient was dead within 33 hours of seeing him.

    Hurwitz isn’t exactly the one to lead the fight for pain treatment is he???

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.