Newsbrief: Feds Cop Plea in Arizona Pain Doctor Case 1/30/04

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When Tucson pain specialist Dr. Jeri Hassman was indicted on 54 counts of prescribing opioid painkillers without a legitimate medical reason in March, federal prosecutors called her a Dr. Feelgood. When, after she refused to buckle under pressure, she was re-indicted in August, this time on a whopping 362 counts, they called her "a drug dealer with a pen."

Thursday, federal prosecutors accepted a plea bargain in which they dropped 358 charges, leaving Dr. Hassman to plead guilty only to four counts of failing to notify authorities that patients had admitted using other family members' prescription drugs. A case that began with a massive blaze of publicity courtesy of federal prosecutors has now ended with a whimper. There was no press release from the Arizona US Attorney's Office.

The plea bargain was hailed as victory by the Pain Relief Network (, a national pain patient and doctor advocacy group that has called an April 19 march on Washington to focus national attention on the persecution of pain doctors and the chronic under-treatment of pain in this country. Still, PRN criticized the government for seeking guilty pleas to the four counts. "If we couldn't see it before," said PRN executive director Siobhan Reynolds, "I hope this deal makes it perfectly clear. The US government, by threat of criminal indictment, will hold physicians criminally responsible if they fail to act as law enforcement officers in their relationships with patients. Neither the Constitution nor the Congress ever gave the Department of Justice the power to do this and yet they use their sheer might to enforce their will."

The persecution of pain doctors has a chilling effect on pain treatment, Reynolds said.

"Doctors were already simply putting down their pens and telling people with high dose needs to look elsewhere for help. We are hearing daily about patient suicides from untreated pain. Now, I'm afraid, the situation will only deteriorate further."

PRN and the National Pain Patients Coalition are calling for a moratorium on drug war prosecutions of pain doctors and calling on Congress to rein in the DEA. "It's becoming increasingly clear that the DEA only goes after doctors who actually apply the science and give people in pain enough medication to resume their normal lives," said Reynolds. "This is an agency out of control."

Visit Dr. Hassmann's web site at:

Read earlier DRCNet coverage of Dr. Hassmann's case at:

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Issue #322, 1/30/04 Colorado Cannabis Confrontation: A Patient and a State Judge Take on the Feds | Goose Creek School District Lawyers Blame Students for Raid | Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? San Francisco Panel Examines Drugs, Terror and Your Rights | Oakland to Regulate "Oaksterdam" Cannabis Dispensaries | Offer and Appeal: New Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004 | Newsbrief: Feds Cop Plea in Arizona Pain Doctor Case | Newsbrief: Mexico's Perpetual Drug War Brings New Talk of Legalization | Newsbrief: Bush's School Drug Testing Initiative Prompts House Bill to Begin Random Testing of School Kids | Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Kerry National Security Advisor Was Key Drug Warrior | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Scotland's First Cannabis Café Opens | Newsbrief: British Government Drug Expert Calls for Ecstasy Downgrade | Newsbrief: More Federal Judges Object to New Sentencing Discretion Limits | Newsbrief: Leading Georgia Prosecutor Slams Drug War, But Only as He Retires | This Week in History | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | The Reformer's Calendar

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