Drug Policy

Hurwitz Trial Update


New York Times science columnist John Tierney reports that the jury in the second federal drug trafficking trial of Virginia pain doctor William Hurwitz deliberated for a third day yesterday. One hopeful sign: On Friday the jurors asked for a definition of acting "beyond the bounds of medical practice," a crucial component of the crimes with which Hurwitz is charged. Hurwitz defense lawyer Richard Stauber explains:

The judge in the Hurwitz case instructed the jury that a doctor acts "beyond the bounds of medical practice" when he knowingly and intentionally engages in illicit drug trafficking as conventionally understood and when he knowingly and intentionally issues prescriptions for recreational drug abuse. This is essentially verbatim from the Supreme Court, and a pretty good instruction for Dr Hurwitz. We shall see.

This standard is notably stricter than the one applied in Hurwitz's original trial, according to which a physician can be guilty of drug trafficking even if he thinks he is practicing good medicine. A federal appeals court rejected that reading of the law when it overturned Hurwitz's conviction, which had resulted in a 25-year prison sentence.

Tierney, who has a column in today's Times that describes how Hurwitz attracted desperate patients who could not get adequate pain treatment elsewhere, also notes the dilemma in which Hurwitz found himself when patients tested positive for illegal drugs. According to the government, such a "red flag" should result in refusal of pain treatment. Yet Hurwitz, unlike the DEA, recognized that even illegal drug users can suffer from severe chronic pain.

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  1. Damn glad to hear this. Hopefully the jury will find him not-guilty. Not that I expect it to slow down DEA raids on doctors though.

  2. Too bad the jury can’t take the government to the woodshed.

  3. I’m curious about Rush Limbaugh’s take on this.

  4. I’m curious about Rush Limbaugh’s take on this.

    Boy, me not. I couldn’t care less what Limbaugh thinks about anything.

  5. illegal drug users can experience pain, they really arent entitled to any relief from opiods though.

  6. After those instructions, I give 90% odds of an acquittal! Good luck, Doctor Hurwitz!

  7. I wonder what the effect would be of having a rule that the state has to pick up the legal bill for any defendant in a criminal case who gets acquitted.

  8. Keep in mind that Hurwitz might not even have had a job, or had a much reduced income, if not for gov’t licensing, which gives him a ‘gatekeeper’ status that prevents people from just buying their drugs as they see fit. As a licensed gov’t agent who personally benefits from regulation, he shouldn’t be surprised that the gov’t wants to control what he does in addition to controlling what his patients do.

  9. Hey OTC Addict! Why aren’t addicts entitled to pain relief? Somebody hand you a couple stone tablets up on a mountain or sumpin? Ever hear of “pseudo-addiction”? That is when someone is in terrible pain and can’t get relief and so begins to drug-seek. Can they have pain relief? Pretty please?
    Blowhards like this guy are what’s wrong with the country. Mind your own business, OTC Addict, and try to think beyond your own nose once in a while.

  10. “Keep in mind that Hurwitz might not even have had a job, or had a much reduced income, if not for gov’t licensing, which gives him a ‘gatekeeper’ status that prevents people from just buying their drugs as they see fit.”

    What, you think doctoring didn’t exist before it was licensed?

  11. Thank God for Doctors like dr William Hurwitz!
    I pray for legal relief so that he may get on with his compassionate business.

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