Saturday, January 05, 2008
N.M. Pain Group To Seek Injunction in Doctor's Case
By Roxana Hegeman/
WICHITA, Kan. A national pain relief group says it will seek a civil injunction to keep the Justice Department from prosecuting a Kansas doctor indicted on federal charges that he ran a "pill mill'' from his Haysville clinic.
The New Mexico-based Pain Relief Network will file a federal civil lawsuit within 10 days in Wichita alleging the Controlled Substances Act, as applied to doctors and patients, is unconstitutional, its president, Siobhan Reynolds, told reporters Friday.
"I want a judge to take a look at this and see if the United States has authority to prosecute,'' Reynolds said, citing a ruling in a similar case that such prosecutions give the government unrestrained power to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.
The group contends that the government's prosecution of Dr. Stephen J. Schneider and his wife, nurse Linda K. Schneider, is the latest in a crackdown by prosecutors against doctors who prescribe pain medication. And it claims that the patients themselves suffer most.
"These patients are in real harm's way,'' Reynolds said. "They are being attacked by the Department of Justice.''
The U.S. attorney's office in Wichita declined to respond to the criticism, saying it was reserving its comments for the courtroom.
Among patients who came out to support the embattled doctor was Jamie McGuire, 49, who has been under Schneider's care for pain from severe arthritis in his spine, hips and shoulder that developed after a car accident.
With Schneider in jail, McGuire said he has been unable to get even a referral to another doctor. "I think they railroaded him,'' he said of the prosecution.
An emotional McGuire told reporters he ran out of medication last week, except for a little morphine that he is nursing along.
"If they don't do something, I will take myself out,'' McGuire said.
The Schneiders have a Feb. 26 trial date in U.S. District Court on a 34-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, health care fraud, illegal monetary transactions and money laundering.
"This prosecution is particularly dear to us. It is in the middle of America the Heartland,'' Reynolds said, saying her group has been involved in 15 similar cases across the nation.
Among the documentation cited by the group is a February 2007 paper published by the American Society for Clinical Pharmacologists and Therapeutics showing 47 criminal prosecutions involving 53 doctors. In 32 of those cases, the charge was based on prosecutors determining prescriptions were outside the bounds of proper medical practice.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts has scheduled a hearing on its motion for an emergency suspension of Schneider's medical license. That hearing is set for 3 p.m. Jan. 15 at the board's offices in Topeka.
Reynolds said her group is calling on the board not to take action against Schneider's license.
The Schneiders, who remain in jail pending trial, are not charged with killing any patients. But federal prosecutors have linked them to the overdose deaths of 56 patients who obtained pain killers at the clinic. The indictment alleges they are directly responsible for four of those deaths.
Schneider also is named in at least a dozen medical malpractice lawsuits filed by his patients, some of whom claim the doctor addicted them to pain medication.
Martin Beatty, 46, a patient of Schneider's for three years, came out to show his support for the doctor. The Wichita contractor has been getting treatment for pain sustained from three falls he took from a roof about 12 years ago. He said he opted for the pain medication, rather than surgery or steroids that he felt were more dangerous.
"Addiction doesn't mean I am going to be a bad person,'' Beatty said.
Beatty said he is now worried about going through withdrawal without being under the care of a physician.
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