Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Indicted -- Could Face Death Sentence 7/16/04

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A Houston County, Georgia, grand jury has indicted Dr. Spurgeon Green on six counts of murder in the deaths of patients, as well as numerous drug charges relating to his prescribing of drugs to those patients. Dr. Green was already facing a murder charge after being indicted last August in neighboring Wayne County in another patient death. He could face a death sentence if found guilty on the murder charges because those deaths would be considered deaths in the commission of another felony -- in this case, the act of writing the prescriptions in question.

Dr. Green joins an ever-growing number of pain management physicians who have been prosecuted for their cutting-edge pain management practices, which often involve prescribing large amounts of opioid pain relievers. The prosecutions, at both the state and the federal level, come as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has declared war on prescription drug abuse. According to Rep. Ron Paul, who earlier this month attempted to bring the issue to the attention of Congress (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/345/ronpaul.shtml), some 300 to 400 doctors have been arrested or investigated in recent years because of their pain management practices.

Dr. Green, 64, had practiced pain management medicine in Perry, Georgia, for the past 30 years and has strong support among patients and other members of the community, who have packed the courtroom at hearings in his cases.

He is accused of prescribing the drugs, including Oxycontin, methadone, and diazepam, that killed seven of his patients. According to the indictment, Green prescribed the drugs "without legitimate medical purpose." In several instances, Dr. Green was indicted for each time he prescribed drugs to one of the patients who died.

But while details on the six cases for which Dr. Green was indicted this week are scarce, the case of David Barbari, for whose death Green was indicted last August, raised more questions than it answers. Barbari, a disabled, brain-damaged chronic pain patient, died after ingesting large quantities of several prescription drugs, including methadone, diazepam, nordiazepam, and meprobamate. Although law enforcement officials alleged Dr. Green knew Barbari was "a drug abuser," that remains unproven, and it is unclear at this point whether Barbari was taking the drugs as prescribed.

Wayne County prosecutor Jim Burke said in a press release that the indictments "were the result of a very in-depth, thorough investigation, primarily by the sheriff's office, with assistance from other agencies." Burke did not elaborate on the number of physicians or pain management specialists employed by the sheriff's office to do the investigation.

Dr. Green maintains his innocence and is free on bail. His medical license has been suspended by the state medical board.

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Issue #346, 7/16/04 In the Wake of Blakely: Senate Committee Hearing Seeks Sentencing Fix, 2nd Circuit Seeks Quick Supreme Court Hearing | Bryan Epis Appeal On Hold Pending Supreme Court Raich Review | Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace | Nevada Secretary of State Says No to Three Ballot Initiatives, Including Marijuana Measure -- Sponsors Go to Court | MPP Pulls Out of Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign -- Locals Vow to Continue Ballot Qualifying Effort | Newsbrief: Delaware General Assembly Calls for Repeal of Higher Education Act Anti-Drug Provision | Newsbrief: Fiji Marijuana Farmers Resist Police Raids | Newsbrief: Drug Czar Flack Barthwell Steps Down in Senate Bid | Newsbrief: Iran Allows Harm Reduction Efforts in Heroin Fight (Unofficially, Of Course) | Newsbrief: Hiring Freeze at Federal Bureau of Prisons, Layoffs Possible Next Year | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Indicted -- Could Face Death Sentence | Newsbrief: 20th Anniversary of Law Raising Drinking Age to 21 | This Week in History | Media Scan: Reason on Kerry, Daily Camera on New Prohibition | Job Opportunity: Communications Assistant, Drug Policy Alliance, NYC | The Reformer's Calendar
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