Iíd like to thank the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons for
inviting me to speak. They are the only organized medicine group that has so far
seen its way clear to take a meaningful stand about the pain crisis. I
acknowledge the other concerned panelists for sacrificing their time to be here
Iíll start by telling you how I got interested in the pain problem. Iím a
general practitioner. During the mid-90s, I developed an interest in the
treatment of chronic pain. This resulted in an unpleasant encounter with the
Attorney General of California.
Mr. Lockyer mistook me for a drug dealing mass murderer. He tossed me in jail,
seized my assets, and got my bail set at $15 million dollars. These are some of
the things that Mr. Lockyer and his agents got published in the newspaper.
We are shutting down suppliers of a highly addictive drug that has been
improperly allowed to saturate the community. He was operating a patient mill,
prescribing controlled drugs after superficial examinations and then submitting
billings to Medi-Cal.
- Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of California, Sacramento Bee. April 19, 1999
The facts in this case suggest that this trio of individuals are more akin to a
person who poisoned a county well and caused the deaths of the people who were
unfortunate enough to drink from it.
-Gary Binkerd, Deputy Attorney General, Redding Record Searchlight, March 7,
I likened the defendants to common 'street pushers' whose sole interest was to
pump out 'staggering quantities' of pain medicine."
-Gary Binkerd, Deputy Attorney General, Redding Record Searchlight April 28,
Mr. Lockyer closed down my clinic, and left my patients to fend for themselves.
I sat in jail, contemplating a potential sentence of 245 years to life. I have
since been exonerated, but for 5 years I couldnít work, and to add insult to
injury, I had to move back in with my parents.
Everyone is curious about the murder charges, so Iíll tell you about one of
them. A patient I treated for chronic back pain was a passenger in a car wreck.
Her skull was crushed, her neck was snapped, her heart exploded, and she was
eviscerated. Any one of these injuries would have been fatal. If you figure out
why Mr. Lockyer accused me of murdering the woman, let me know.
Why I Walked
My arrest and prosecution wasnít a fluke. The only thing unusual about my case
is the fact that I was exonerated. Similar prosecutions are sending innocent
physicians to prison all over the country. My colleague, Jim Graves, is doing
63 years in Florida state prison. My colleague Freddie Williams just drew a life
sentence. I got lucky. After I got thrown in jail, my brother picked out a
lawyer for me. One who knows how to win this kind of a case. He is from San
Francisco. His name is Patrick Hallinan.
The Myth of Available Pain Treatment
Iím here to debunk a myth. This is the myth of available pain treatment. Most of
you probably think that if you get chronic pain, your physician will control it
for you. Donít count on this, because it isnít going to happen.
Let me tell you what will happen. Rather than risk his own neck by treating your
pain, your physician will let you suffer unnecessarily, and maybe even let you
die. By itself, that would be bad enough, but thatís only half of it. If you get
chronic pain, your physician will also abuse you.
Hereís what you can expect. If your pain is out of control, and you request a
larger prescription, your physician is trained to identify this as an ďaberrantĒ
drug-related behavior. What this means, is he will think you are a drug addict.
Instead of prescribing the medications you need, he will respond with threats to
terminate your treatment altogether. That isnít pain control, its abuse.
Your physician isnít evil. He was trained to abuse you in this manner.
Guidelines, established by academic medicine require this of him. Your
physicianís unethical conduct is pain treatment delivered in the requisite drug
In my own practice, I refused to abuse my patients in this manner. Instead, I
made sure they received enough medication to control their pain. After seeing
what happened to me, it is no wonder that most physicians refuse to treat
chronic pain at all.
The worst of my personal ordeal is over. I have my medical license back. Now, I
want my profession back.
I want to be able to practice medicine without the police conducting
surveillance in my parking lot. I want to see patients in my office without a
bunch of undercover agents wiring up, and trying to scam me for drugs. After I
go home at night, I donít want the cops digging through the trash in the
dumpster in back of my clinic. Most of all, I donít want the police leaning on
my patients, and cutting deals with them to testify against me in court.
Iíve had it with law enforcement regulating pain management, and sending
pain-treating physicians to prison. Its time establish rational social policy,
that delivers the regulation of medical practice back into the hands of
physicians, where it belongs. Its time to get the drug war monkey off the
medical professionís back.