Pain Medicine: Judge Dismisses Most Serious Charges in Hurwitz Retrial

The judge presiding over the retrial of prominent Northern Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz has dismissed the most serious charges against him. On Wednesday, as the defense rested in the month-long retrial, Judge Leonie Brinkema granted a defense request to dismiss charges of causing bodily injury or death. Hurwitz still faces dozens of drug trafficking counts linked to his pain management medical practice.
Dr. Hurwitz in 1996
Hurwitz was originally convicted in November 2004 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has been there ever since, even though the original verdict was overturned on appeal. While he could still face substantial prison time if found guilty again, he will not face the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence that the charge of causing bodily injury or death carries.

In dismissing the charges, Brinkema agreed with two arguments advanced by the defense. First was that prosecutors had not proven the pain relievers prescribed by Hurwitz caused death or injury. Second was that the US Supreme Court in its decision upholding Oregon's right to die law last year ruled that federal drug laws did not give the Justice Department the power "to define general standards of medical practice."

That is precisely what federal prosecutors have done in dozens of cases like Hurwitz's. Prosecutors repeatedly -- and often successfully -- argued that doctors prescribing high dose of opioid pain relievers were outside the bounds of "accepted medical practice," and thus drug dealers, not doctors.

Now it will be more difficult for prosecutors to win a new conviction against Hurwitz. They must show that he knew the drugs he prescribed would be resold or abused and prescribed them anyway. Hurwitz has steadfastly denied that. Now prosecutors will have to prove that his problem patients were so obviously drug addicts and dealers that he had to have known his prescriptions were being diverted.

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Dr. Hurwitz

Thank GOD!
As one of "Billy's" former patient's, too paranoid from the DEA's scare tactics to write to him personally, I just want to say, hang in there Billy, it won't be long now!

As the child of one of

As the child of one of Hurwitz patients that he killed - I find it repulsive. I guess that justice is as fleeting as a good doctor.

Dear Anonymous

I am thoroughly familiar with Dr. Hurwitz's case as are several people in our organization. We are very sorry for your loss and know how painful it is to lose a family member in a situation where you believe that mistakes were made that led to your loss. So please know that what I am about to say in no way denigrates your experience.
The problem is, whenever pain medicine is involved in the situation, it appears that everyone, and that includes the medical examiners, agents, prosecutors, and ultimately the family members of the deceased, jump to the conclusion that the death occurred as a result of actions taken or not taken by the doctor.
I cannot speak specifically to your situation so I cannot say that this rush to blame occurred in your situation, but I do know that in every instance where professionals have gone back and taken a dispassionate look at all the available evidence, we have never once seen a circumstance where the death could rightfully be laid at the door of the targeted doctor. Usually, the dead person was very ill anyway and in fact suffered a great many dangerous effects from having not had their pain treated for a long time, effects that ultimately lead to that person's untimely death.
What one must remember is that the prosecutors have a lot to gain by characterizing such deaths as killings by the doctors and show very little professionalism, either in how they approach the deaths medically, or in how they deal with the grieving family members. To be blunt, we have seen the same scenario play out over and over in these cases where, I am very sorry to say, it appears Federal prosecutors manipulate the grief of the family members in the hope of a) getting emotional and compelling testimony against the doctor and b) a civil suit brought against the doctor which will further the government's hopes for a conviction by putting extra pressure on the doctor's defense.

As I have said, I don't know the precise circumstances of the death you are talking about but I do know, from personal experience, that Dr. Hurwitz only ever tried to help the people who came to him. No matter what happened, of this you can be sure; he never meant your family member any harm, nor did he ever take any action to deliberately put your family member in harm's way.
I have recently lost my husband due to the fact that Dr. Hurwitz was removed from practice and as a result, our then 14 year old son lost his father and I lost my best friend in the world.
It is from this position that I send you my deepest condolences and encourage you to get in touch with my organization so we may look at the circumstances with you, anew.
I cannot promise that your blame will be proved misplaced but I hope it would be of some relief to you if you were to find that Dr. Hurwitz, at least, had not let you down as you feel he did.
Doctors are supposed to be there to help us. And to think that someone of his stature had abused that trust and actively sought your family members' death must be an agonizing place to be in. If you would like to take another look please go to the website and get in touch.
With sincere regrets for your loss,
Siobhan Reynolds
Pain Relief

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