Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House 7/9/04

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For the first time, if only briefly, members of the US Congress on Wednesday dealt with the issue of the overzealous prosecution of pain management physicians by the Justice Department. The occasion was an effort by libertarian Republican Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a physician himself, to amend the Justice Department appropriations bill to forbid expenditures for targeting doctors who are merely doing their jobs.

Rep. Ron Paul
Rep. Paul, long a foe of drug war excess, was inspired by a wave of federal prosecutions of pain doctors, including some of the nation's most prominent pain management physicians, such as Dr. William Hurwitz, currently under indictment in northern Virginia, and Dr. Cecil Knox, currently facing a second trial in southwestern Virginia after a federal jury failed to convict on any charges the first time around.

Paul's amendment would protect doctors who prescribe anything other than a Schedule I controlled substance. Since Schedule I drugs (marijuana, heroin, ecstasy) are by definition without any accepted medical use in the US, that leaves the whole opioid pharmacopeia available to physicians.

"What this amendment does is it denies funding to the Department of Justice to prosecute doctors for prescribing legal drugs," Rep. Paul told the committee. "The reason I bring this up is to call attention to the Members of a growing and difficult problem developing in this country, and that is that more and more doctors now are being prosecuted by the Justice Department under the laws that were designated for going after drug kingpins, for illegal drug dealers; but they are using the same laws to go after doctors."

Paul cited some 400 prosecutions of doctors and railed against a system that abrogates physician's decision-making power to a DEA employee. "We have now created a system where a federal bureaucrat makes the medical decision about whether or not a doctor has prescribed too many pain pills," Paul continued. The result, he said, is inadequate pain treatment. "What this is doing is making everybody fearful," he said. "The other doctors are frightened. Nurses are too frightened to give adequate pain medications even in the hospitals because of this atmosphere."

Responses came from Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), who spoke of how southwest Virginia had been "devastated" by prescription drug abuse. For that reason, said Wolf, he opposed Paul's amendment.

The amendment was ruled out of order by the committee chair the same day on the grounds that it would amend law, something beyond the scope of an appropriations bill. But the pain crisis has entered the nation's capitol.

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Issue #345, 7/9/04 Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real | In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond | House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited | International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs | Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot | ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote | Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing | Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison | Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop | Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction | Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired | Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes | Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace | Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants | The Reformer's Calendar
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