Mar 28, 2007

More government intrusion

John Tierney (here and here) writes about the retrial of Dr. William Hurwitz, who's being prosecuted for prescribing pain killers to patients. Hurwitz was convicted for drug trafficking in 2004 under a federal law that goes after doctors who prescribe quantities of pain killers that the Drug Enforcement Administration has decided are unreasonable.
The verdict vindicated the Drug Enfrocement Administration’s strategy of using the power of drug-trafficking laws against doctors prescribing opioids even when there was no evidence (as in Dr. Hurwitz’s case) that they were getting a cut of the illegal sales. Karen Tandy, the D.E.A. administrator, praised the 25-year sentence imposed on Dr. Hurwitz by saying he “was no different from a cocaine or heroin dealer peddling poison on the street corner.”

Since then, though, there have been a couple of different opinions about the intepretation of federal drug law. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that it applies to doctors only when they’re guilty of “drug dealing and trafficking as conventionally understood.” And an appeals court ordered a retrial for Dr. Hurwitz because the jury should have considered whether he acted in “good faith.”

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