Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder 8/1/03

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The persecution of doctors specializing in pain management with opioids has claimed another victim. Dr. Spurgeon Green Jr., of Perry, GA, was indicted for murder July 22 in the April death of one of his patients. Green, a certified pain specialist who has been practicing since 1974, sits in the Wayne County Jail awaiting a bond hearing this week.

He is charged in the death of David Barbari, 41, who died of a drug overdose after being prescribed opioid pain relievers by Dr. Green. The indictment resulted from a combined investigation among the Houston County and Wayne County sheriff's offices and the Houston County District Attorney's Office. He is charged with felony murder, or murder resulting from the commission of another felony, in this case improperly prescribing opioid pain relievers.

Results from that investigation were apparently fed to the State Board of Medical Examiners, which used it suspend his license to practice medicine on July 24, the Macon Telegraph reported. The medical board said that six more of Green's patients died of drug overdoses or multiple drug intoxication. It also claimed that some 300 of Green's patients were "known drug users or persons with drug-related criminal histories," that some of them resold drugs he prescribed, and that he prescribed "in the absence of substantial justification."

Green's attorney O. Hale Almand Jr., told the Telegraph he suspected the allegations made by the board are based on the criminal investigations, which have yet to prove anything against Green. "This document is a travesty because it makes accusations but does not support them," said Almand. "I'm waiting for anyone to prove any of that because I don't think it can be proven." Green is innocent of all charges, Almand said. Doctors cannot control whether a patient abuses prescribed drugs, he added.

Dr. Green is but the latest of at least 30 physicians who have been prosecuted nationwide in recent years for their pain prescription practices. At least two other physicians, Dr. Frank Fisher in California and Dr. Robert Weitzel in Utah, were charged with murder in similar cases. In both of those cases, however, the criminal prosecutions collapsed after courts heard testimony from pain management experts who testified their practices were in line with contemporary medical standards. A Florida physician, Dr. James Graves, was convicted of manslaughter last year and is currently serving a 63-year prison sentence.

According to the Dallas Morning News, where a similar case against Dr. Daniel Maynard is underway, prosecutors across the country are networking with the prosecutors in the Graves case to find ways to make criminal charges stick against pain doctors. Similar investigations are under way in South Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and California, the paper reported.

According to the Macon Telegraph, Dr. Green's patients have been calling the newspaper to offer their support. One of them, the Rev. Jeffrey Walker, an associate pastor at Bethel AME in Macon and a member of Fellowship Bible Baptist Church in Warner Robins, told the paper patients, not physicians, should be accountable for abusing prescriptions. "I believe in my heart that Dr. Green has never done anything wrong," Walker said. "I've got to believe in my heart that he's going to be exonerated."

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Issue #298, 8/1/03 Kansas City Drug Fighting Tax Encounters Organized Opposition | Prison Population Increase Accelerates, Up 2.6% Last Year | Brazil's Lula Backslides on Drug Reform, Grants Military Continued Control Over Anti-Drug Agency | This Week in History | Newsbrief: Mozambique, Swazi Farmers Find Dagga Crop Lucrative, But Have to Adjust to Market Trends | Newsbrief: Brazil Bans Viagra Ads | Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder | Newsbrief: Florida Ex-Cons to Get Voting Rights | Mini Briefs: Illinois Syringe Deregulation, James Geddes Released | Web Scan: OPN, HRC, Cultural Baggage, | The Reformer's Calendar

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