Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned the conviction of McLean, Virginia, pain doctor William Hurwitz on drug trafficking charges, finding that the trial court erred by telling jurors they could find him guilty even if he prescribed narcotics in good faith. The 4th Circuit has ordered a new trial for Hurwitz, who was sentenced last year to 25 years in federal prison. It is amazing this issue had to be litigated, but the government steadfastly maintained that it didn't matter whether Hurwitz was honestly trying to relieve the suffering of patients with severe chronic pain. Although the appeals court rejected this position, it muddied the waters by saying the good faith standard should be "objective," based on general medical practice, rather than "subjective," meaning the defendant thought he was practicing good medicine. Judge H. Emory Widener joined the ruling but departed from the majority on this point, writing: "I do not believe good faith should be objective; the two terms are contradictory, it seems to me." Me too.
[Thanks to the Pain Relief Network's Siobhan Reynolds for the tip.]