On Wednesday ABC's Nightline explored the drug war's impact on pain treatment, focusing on two men I've written about, both of whom received 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for "drug trafficking": Richard Paey, a Florida man accused of improperly obtaining narcotics to treat his chronic pain, and Virginia pain doctor William Hurwitz, who was convicted based on his prescriptions for patients who were selling the drugs on the black market. If it seems strange that you can be imprisoned for drug trafficking without actually engaging in drug trafficking, consider the case of Florida physician Denis Deonarine, who is on trial for first-degree murder even though he plainly did not murder anyone.
Rather, Deonarine prescribed OxyContin to a patient, Michael Labzda, who died after crushing and snorting the pills as a chaser to at least two sixpacks of beer and an overdose of Xanax. Denoarine may have been a sloppy doctor (he concedes he was bad at keeping records), but he clearly is not guilty of homicide, let alone premeditated murder. You could call this a case of negligent homicide, but only in the sense that Labzda's own negligence led to his death.
[Thanks to Harry Rose for the link.]