FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2004
UNDER THE GLARE OF THE NATIONAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT, US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CUTS
DR. JERI HASSMAN OF TUCSON, ARIZONA A SWEETHEART DEAL:
FROM 362 COUNTS OF "DRUG
DEALING WITH A PEN" TO 4 CHARGES OF FAILING TO TURN HER PATIENTS INTO
AUTHORITIES AFTER THEY ADMITTED USING FAMILY MEMBERS' PRESCRIPTION DRUGS.
RELIEF NETWORK SAYS THE US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS SOME EXPLAINING TO DO
Pain Relief Network, a National Pain Patient and Doctor Advocacy group,
breathes a sigh of relief for Dr. Hassman while sounding the alarm on implications
for the ethical practice of medicine and doctor/patient confidentiality.
New York, NY - Having shined the national spotlight on the flimsiness of U.S.
Department of Justice prosecutions of legitimate physicians, Pain Relief
Network is delighted to announce the first of what it predicts will be a string of
physician victories in Federal courts.
Noting that Dr. Jeri Hassman was
required to plead guilty only to such "crimes" as her doctor/patient confidentiality
necessitated that she commit, PRN's Founding Executive Director Siobhan
Reynolds says "the deal clarifies the conflict between medicine and the U.S.
Department of Justice. "
"The DOJ has so lost track of what's supposed to be sacred territory, they
are now demanding that physicians act as officers of the law within what is
supposed to be a private, protected relationship." said Ms. Reynolds.
"The traditional trust essential
to an appropriate doctor/patient relationship has been severely undermined by
the government's obsession with Controlled Substances. If we couldn't see it
before, I hope this deal makes it perfectly clear." she said.
Government, by threat of criminal indictment, will hold physicians criminally
responsible if they fail to act as law enforcement officers in their relationships
with patients. Neither the Constitution nor the Congress ever gave the
Department of Justice the power to do this and yet they use their sheer might to
enforce their will."
Citing the massive undertreatment of pain in the U.S., which conservative
estimates put at 50 million Americans, PRN's Reynolds is concerned about the
impact this deal will have on patients in pain.
"Doctors were already simply
putting down their pens and telling people with high dose needs to look elsewhere
for help. We are hearing daily about patient suicides from untreated pain. Now,
I'm afraid, the situation will only deteriorate further." she said.
Renewing PRN's and the National Pain Patients Coalition's call for
Congressional hearings into the U.S. Department of Justices' role in this escalating
public health catastrophe, Reynolds is calling upon Congress to protect the
public from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Each time they bring one of these
cases, thousands of patients are cut off from vital medical care, permanently
stigmatized in their communities, and made to suffer unspeakable anguish and
physical pain." Reynolds said. "We are calling for a moratorium on Drug War prosecutions of
physicians until the boundaries meant to protect us all can be reestablished."
What started out as a breathtaking 362 counts has fizzled into a Pyrrhic
victory for the government. But while Dr. Hassman may finally be out from under
the government's sword of Damocles, her patients and all pain patients have
taken the distinct impression that their government is seeking to deny them
desperately needed medical care.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that the DEA only
goes after doctors who actually apply the science and give people in pain
enough medication to resume their normal lives. This is an agency out of
control." Reynolds said.
Family Member of a Chronic Pain Patient
Founding Executive Director
"Standing up for patients in pain and the doctors who treat them"