Fisher's ordeal finally is over
Last of four death suits dismissed
February 2, 2005 - Six years after state agents raided his medical clinic in Anderson, Dr. Frank Fisher's legal problems appear to have ended with the quiet dismissal of the last of four wrongful death suits against him.
The dismissal papers were filed late Monday in Shasta County Superior Court and delivered to Fisher's attorneys Tuesday -- the sixth anniversary of his arrest for multiple murders and massive Medi-Cal fraud.
"This tells me that those malpractice lawsuits were frivolous, but I knew that all along," Fisher said Tuesday. "I'm just glad it's over."
The four civil cases were filed by relatives of patients who allegedly died of OxyContin overdoses -- some of the same cases that prompted his arrest.
At that time Fisher was roundly criticized by law enforcement and some members of the medical community for prescribing what they said were huge doses of the drug, a sustained-release pain opioid that since has grabbed nationwide headlines and spurred numerous criminal cases against doctors.
Also arrested and named in the wrongful death suits were Redding pharmacist Stephen Miller and his wife, Madeline.
The final civil case stemmed from the 1999 overdose death of Maurina Havens of Anderson. It was filed by her brother, Gary Smith.
That all the cases were dismissed in Fisher's favor is a testament to the doctor's insistence on "standing on principle ... sometimes to his own detriment because it took so long to have an ending he can live with," said attorney James Goodman of San Francisco, who helped defend Fisher in the civil cases.
"It would have been a lot more convenient for him not to fight,"Goodman said. "Standing on principle has proven to be costly, but in the end the legal system has vindicated him."
Goodman said the state's prosecution of Fisher was "not well conceived in the beginning."
He and co-counsel Wesley Pratt said they believe those who sued Fisher in civil court were hoping to piggyback on what they hoped would be a successful criminal prosecution.
Instead, the murder charges were reduced to manslaughter and finally dropped.
Initially, the attorneys said, the plaintiffs in the civil cases had offered to settle for "millions." But those offers dropped steadily as the state's criminal case dwindled away.
In the end, two of the four civil plaintiffs were ordered to pay Fisher damages -- $325.10 in one case and $1,022.54 in another.
"I feel sorry for the people who sued me. I believe that they were misled by the (state) agents," Fisher said.
Fisher said he also believes he has remedied a long-running state Medical Board investigation that once threatened his license to practice medicine.
He said he has signed an agreement with the state that he will pass a refresher course in general medicine, will keep a list of any controlled substances he prescribes and will allow his cases to be monitored for a while.
Although Shasta County Superior Court Judge William Gallagher forbade Fisher to practice medicine while he was out on bail on the criminal charges, the state never yanked his license.
But Fisher was in jail for five months before his $15 million bail was finally reduced and spent the next five years fighting his legal battles, so he hasn't practiced.
"Their concern is for the public and that I establish I'm still capable of practicing medicine before they turn me loose, even though I am loose on the public now," Fisher said. "It's the kind of thing they might impose on anyone out of practice for six years."
Fisher, who has been living with his parents in El Cerrito since he got out of jail, said he hopes to open a clinic somewhere in rural Northen California, possibly even in Shasta County.
"I don't have anything against Anderson or Shasta County," he said, characterizing his arrest as "part of a nationwide witch hunt."
"We've demonized our most valuable medicine. There's nothing better and nothing safer than opioids," he said.
But Fisher won't be dispensing those drugs.
"When a doctor takes an oath, I don't think that includes going to prison," he said. "I draw the line at this sort of thing and a vast majority of my colleagues do."
And that, he said, "is a tragedy and an ongoing public health disaster."
Dr. Frank B. Fisher Cleared Of All Charges
California General Practioner Who Treated Pain Aggressively is Finally Vindicated,
PRN to Sue California On Behalf of Patients Deprived of Necessary Medical Treatment.
PRN calling upon Governor Schwartzenegger to investigate the Attorney General
REDDING, CA- For the past seven years, Harvard trained physician Frank B. Fisher MD has endured a constant barrage of assault by the California Attorney General's Office. Highlighting the dangers present when law enforcement community seeks to impose its superstitious and outdated views on cutting edge medical practice, Fisher's case sends a clear signal of the pressing need for systemic governmental reform.
Having been forced to drop the initial murder and distribution charges due to an unacknowledged lack of evidence in January 2003, the California Attorney General's Office scrambled to cover up their historic blunder by re-charging Dr. Fisher with fraud.
"Seven years ago, Attorney General Lockyer came to Redding and declared that by arresting and detaining Dr. Fisher, his prosecutors had shut down the biggest drug ring in the history of Northern California. Apparently unaware that aggressive pain management had become a widely recognized imperative of mainstream medicine; Attorney General Bill Lockyer sought to characterize Dr. Fisher's practice as sinister. Unfortunately, in doing so, the State of California embarked upon what amounts to the single largest state-sponsored medical experiment on an unwilling population since the dark days of Tuskeegee. Most of Dr. Fisher's patients have been unable to find care. Hundreds have deteriorated unnecessarily, and several have died. At the time of Dr. Fisher's arrest, twenty-five people were forced to apply for full disability, people who were previously working with Dr. Fisher's help. We intend to hold the State of California and the other counties and municipalities who participated in this debacle accountable for their reckless conduct" said Siobhan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Pain Relief Network.
The Pain Relief Network consists of pain patients, family members of people in pain, physicians, attorneys, and activists who are working toward a day when people in pain will be afforded the simple dignity and compassion due all ill Americans. With over 100 physicians across the U.S. criminally prosecuted for supposedly prescribing controlled substances unlawfully, the Pain Relief Network is pushing for a full and unrestricted congressional investigation into the US Department of Justice's role in the nationwide attack on legitimate medicine.
Pain Relief Network can be found on the web at www.PainReliefNetwork.org
Dr. Fisher Found
Following two intense weeks of trial, I was found not guilty of all 8 counts
of Medi-Cal fraud with which I was charged by the California Attorney
General¹s office. For the first time in 6 years I am not under criminal
indictment. It feels good.
Here is a message I just received from a juror, which tells the story rather
"I was juror #1. Now that I am home and can read about you on the Internet, my heart really goes out to you for what you have been through. I was upset that the prosecutor wasted my time and the court¹s time on such a weak case. But now that I know what you have really been through I feel embarrassed and selfish to be thinking about my own time. I hope you can reopen your clinic some day and get back to practicing medicine, in your office or back room or anywhere you choose. Thanks for doing the job most doctors won't."
Testimony starts in fraud case
Charges reduced against doctor accused of trying to bilk Medi-Cal
By Jim Schultz, Record Searchlight
May 13, 2004
A jury is hearing testimony on charges that a Redding doctor,
originally suspected of murder, engaged in Medi-Cal fraud.
Frank B. Fisher, 50, is standing trial in Shasta County Superior
Court for allegedly filing more than a half-dozen fraudulent Medi-Cal
Fisher, who is being prosecuted by the California attorney general's
office, is charged with eight misdemeanor counts, far fewer than the
26 counts that were reduced last year from felonies to misdemeanors.
Judge Bradley Boeckman reduced those counts to misdemeanors in
November, saying the charges were too old to warrant a felony trial,
said John Dower, a state deputy attorney general who specializes in
Dower has alleged that the doctor filed about $4,300 in fraudulent
Medi-Cal claims from July 1995 to October 1996. Of that amount, Medi-
Cal paid $1,125.
Dower would not say how much money the doctor is accused of bilking
Medi-Cal, but Fisher said in a news release that the sum totals only
Fisher said that figure pales in comparison with the investment in
time and money that the state attorney general's office has spent
prosecuting him and two former pharmacy owners, Steven and Madeline
"The current charges reflect a desperate and futile attempt by the
attorney general's office to save face in the wake of a failed drug
prosecution against legitimate medical providers," Fisher said.
During Fisher's preliminary hearing last year, his attorney, David
Osborne of Redding, called the state's prosecution of his client
a "waste of time, trouble and resources."
And, he has said, the money his client is accused of bilking Medi-Cal
can be attributed to a variety of factors, including confusion
surrounding its complex coding and billing procedures.
On Tuesday, however, Sacramento physician Patricia Samuelson, a
faculty member at the UC Davis Medical Center, testified that
Fisher's claims for payment from Medi-Cal were woefully inadequate.
She cited a lack of patient history, documentation, diagnosis and
other information in his claims to warrant the reimbursement sought
In some cases, she said, a face-to-face examination with a patient to
justify such reimbursement sought by Fisher could typically take
about 20 minutes.
But, she noted during a review of Fisher's claims, one office visit
lasted less than a minute and another less than five minutes.
Her testimony, however, was contradicted on Wednesday by another
doctor, Glenn Littenberg of Pasadena.
Littenberg said that Fisher's payment requests for the services he
had performed did not appear out of line.
Nor, he said, did he consider them to warrant criminal or civil
prosecution, noting that he has worked in the past with government
and insurance companies to identify billing fraud by physicians.
Littenberg, who said that the reimbursement billing process in the
mid-1990s was cumbersome and confusing to scores of doctors, also
said the length of a doctor's visit is one of the least important
factors in deciding what kind of Medi-Cal reimbursement is ultimately
sought by doctors.
Fisher gained notoriety in 1999 when he and the Millers were arrested
for allegedly cheating Medi-Cal of $2 million and endangering
thousands of patients' lives by overprescribing and dispensing an
opiate painkiller, oxycodone.
That case was dismissed in January 2003.
Reporter Jim Schultz can be reached at 225-8223 or at
Dr. Frank Fisher, M.D.
Dr. Fisher was the medical director of a community health center, caring for the rural poor in Northern California. On the morning of February 18, 1999, he was arrested and charged with 5 counts of murder, by agents from the California Attorney General¹s office who mistook him for a drug dealer. After a 21 day preliminary hearing, a judge threw out all the murder charges. The Attorney General¹s office continued to pursue lesser charges against the doctor, despite abundant evidence of his innocence, and despite a deepening scandal involving misconduct by state officials. On January 14, 2003, after almost 4 years of relentless prosecution, all charges were dismissed, on the first day of trial when the government finally admitted it didn't have the evidence.
Doctor's attorney blasts fraud case
Says Medi-Cal charges waste of time, money
The defense attorney for a Redding doctor accused of Medi-Cal fraud
lambasted Wednesday the state's prosecution of his client, calling it a
"waste of time, trouble and resources."
A preliminary hearing to determine whether Frank B. Fisher, 50, should stand
trial for Medi-Cal fraud wrapped up Wednesday with Shasta County Superior
Court Judge Bradley Boeckman expected to make his ruling Monday.
But Redding attorney David Osborne said during closing arguments that
testimony provided during the hearing, which began last week, does not
warrant a felony fraud trial.
"I don't see this as the uncloaking of a major fraud practitioner," he said,
adding that the money his client is accused of bilking Medi-Cal can be
attributed to confusion surrounding its coding and billing procedures. "It
is not a case of the doctor getting rich."
John Dower, a state deputy attorney general who specializes in Medi-Cal
fraud, is alleging that Fisher filed about $4,300 in fraudulent Medi-Cal
claims from July 1995 to October 1996. Of that amount, Medi-Cal paid $1,125.
Although Dower said Wednesday that the amount of money was small, he said it
was clear to him that Fisher's "pattern of behavior" in filing the claims
justified his prosecution.
"Frankly, I admit that $1,125" is not "a grand figure, but it does qualify
for grand theft," he said.
Still, Boeckman voiced concern that even the $1,125 figure might be too
high, saying that the amount of the alleged fraud should be the difference
between the claimed amount and the money in which the doctor is entitled.
It would have been different, he said, if a physician had billed Medi-Cal
for treating a patient he or she had not treated, but that did not appear to
be the case here.
Sacramento physician Patricia Samuelson has testified that Fisher's Medi-Cal
claims for payment were flawed because they failed to include the necessary
documentation and other required information to justify the level of
reimbursement sought by him.
But Osborne was highly critical of some of Samuelson's testimony, saying
that she had no direct knowledge of the extent of Fisher's treatment of his
"There's nothing (in her background) that makes her an expert in
second-guessing doctors," he said, calling her criticism of Fisher "Sunday
Fisher and two pharmacy owners, Stephen Miller and his wife, Stephanie
Miller, were arrested in 1999 for allegedly cheating Medi-Cal of $2 million
and endangering thousands of patients' lives by overprescribing and
dispensing an opiate painkiller, oxycodone.
That case was dismissed in January, but the state attorney's general office
has said it will refile those charges, although it has yet to do so.
"It's a matter that's still under investigation," Dower said.
Reporter Jim Schultz can be reached at 225-8223 or at [email protected]
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Dr. FISHER'S TRIAL TO BEGIN DECEMBER 10th
At the most recent hearing on Friday November 15, we were introduced to a new cast of characters.
Judge Bockman is now presiding over the case. He is a no nonsense type of judge, with a reputation for fairness.
The Attorney General's office has assigned two new prosecutors to the case, which brings the total of attorneys who have left the case over the previous years to 4. The new prosecutors presented a motion for a continuance, which would allow them to familiarize themselves with the case before trial. This was denied by Judge Bockman, who is determined that this case, which is now almost 4 years old, should move ahead to trial
Trial will begin on December 10th at 8:45 AM in District 10 of the Shasta County courthouse. Two weeks of pretrial motions are anticipated. Jury selection will commence on January 7th of 2003.
THE PROSECUTION AGAINST DR. FISHER AND THE MILLERS
On the morning of February 18, 1999 a multitude of heavily armed officers from several law enforcement agencies swarmed into the clinic of Dr. Frank B. Fisher in Anderson, California. Simultaneously Shasta Pharmacy, owned by Mr. And Mrs. Miller, was similarly raided. Employees were detained while the facilities were ransacked. Defendants' Miranda rights were deliberately violated. The Attorney General released a sensational press story, announcing the apprehension of a sophisticated drug ring, trading in prescription drugs, which had committed multiple murders.
Dr. Fisher's and the Miller's assets were confiscated and remain frozen. Dr. Fisher was jailed on $15,000,000 (fifteen million dollars) bail. Prosecutors described Dr. Fisher to the press and to the court as a "drug dealing mass murderer." After five months of incarceration, Judge Gallagher of Shasta County Superior Court dismissed all fifteen counts of murder as wholly unfounded and reduced bail, releasing Dr. Fisher and the Millers.
Who Is Dr. Fisher?
Dr. Frank B. Fisher is an accomplished and conscientious forty-nine year old Harvard educated general practitioner. He has maintained an unimpeachable practice for twenty years mainly in under-served communities, including Native American reservation health care facilities. Until his arrest he was the medical director of a federally designated community health center which served the general practice needs of the MediCal population in Shasta County, and included programs for women, children, and mental health. He is committed to the ethical and compassionate treatment of patients suffering form chronic pain. His goal in treating these patients is to relieve their suffering and return them to productive pain-free lives. He is currently prohibited from practicing by a court order while the remainder of pending charges are resolved.
Who Are The Millers?
Steven and Madeline Miller are a husband and wife who operated a small "mom and pop" pharmacy in Redding, California. They understand Chronic Pain treatment and were one of a few local pharmacies willing to fill prescriptions for Dr. Fisher's pain patients. Ms. Miller, who is not a pharmacist, was also charged with multiple murders, apparently because she tried to advocate for her Chronic Pain customers by attempting to force MediCal bureaucrats to observe existing California pain control law. Ms. Miller's pain patient advocacy took her to the Capital for meetings on several occasions, to speak with legislators and bureaucrats on Chronic Pain medication and reimbursement issues. Then her advocacy took her to jail!
Why Were They Charged With Murder?
We aren't entirely certain. One key element involves a vindictive and ambitious prosecutor, Gary Binkerd, frustrated by multiple botched attempts to close a Chronic Pain clinic, whose purpose he blatantly ignored. This frustration, compounded by a huge expenditure of taxpayer money, forced escalation of the investigation, and ultimately the absurdly contrived prosecution.
Prosecutors and investigators remain inexcusably ignorant of recent developments in standards for pain control and appropriate dosage limits, maintaining that the quantity of opiates prescribed, by itself, constitutes proof of criminal conduct. Eager to manufacture murder charges, they commenced a search for bodies.
The prosecutors supported their murder charges with the dubious "expert" opinion of the medical director from a nearby clinic, Ann Murphy MD, who testified emphatically that the doses of opiates prescribed by Dr. Fisher were lethal. She admitted under cross examination that she has absolutely no training in pain control and that her clinic enforces a "no narcotics" policy, found posted on its waiting room walls. The prosecution's very next expert witness, Dr. Eisele, conclusively disproved the clinic director's accusations that Dr. Fisher's doses were per-se lethal, saying he frequently prescribes higher dosages.
Who Are The "Murder" Victims?
One alleged "murder victim" Rebecca Williams, died as a passenger in a tragic automobile accident. She suffered multiple massive traumas to her head and vital organs, any one of which was sufficient to cause immediate death. The claim that opiates killed her is made more ridiculous by proof that she was alert and talking minutes before the accident.
Another alleged homicide occurred when a woman stole prescription medicines from a pain patient and gave them to non-patient David Steuart. Steuart died and the woman confessed to stealing the meds and giving them to him. Investigators and prosecutors ignored the true perpetrator and accused Dr. Fisher instead.
Possibly the most egregious charges involved Dr. Fisher's former patient Maurina Havens, a Chronic Pain patient with a fully documented history and need for opiates. Ms. Havens' pain medication supply ran out shortly after Dr. Fisher's arrest. Due to the arrest, her primary doctor who had referred her to Fisher for pain care, refused to see her. She was justifiably despondent from this turn of events and died after Dr. Fisher had been jailed for about two weeks! Dr. Fisher was charged with murdering this unfortunate woman from behind bars!. Would she be alive today with continued medical care?
Is Opioid Pain Therapy Legal?
Yes! In 1997 the California Legislature enacted Health and Saftey Code Section 124960 which states:
(d) A physician who uses opiate therapy to relieve severe chronic intractable pain may prescribe a dosage deemed medically necessary to relieve severe chronic intractable pain as long as the prescribing is in conformance with the  California Intractable Pain Treatment Act, Section 2241.5 of the Business and Professions Code.
Quantity is not the issue. Pain suffering can be safely treated with seemingly large opiate doses, given proper titration and acquired tolerance.
"The absolute numbers don't bother me a bit. I'll repeat that. The absolute numbers don't bother me a bit. I have cases of my own that I can show on higher doses than any patient that Dr. Fisher ever had in all the records that I've got."
David Eisele, M.D. Founder, U C Davis, Pain Control Center.
Do Pain Patients Become Addicts?
Rarely - Two National Institute of Drug Abuse studies, involving more than forty thousand pain patients, found that the addiction rate in this population is less than one in one thousand. Pain patients do not even get high on their medications, when taken as prescribed. Common sense tells us this, as the majority of Americans have used these medications, known as Vicodin, Percocet, and Codeine, without becoming addicted.
Why is Pain Undertreated?
The problem began in the early 1900s with the passage of the Harrison Act, effectively outlawing opiates. This took place in the moral climate which produced alcohol prohibition and "reefer madness." Prior to 1914 opiates were freely available over the counter.
Law enforcement has never perceived a distinction between pain patients and addicts. As a result, legitimate pain doctors have been prosecuted for "drug dealing" over the past eighty years. In this climate of intimidation it took medical science sixty-five years to discover that the vast majority of pain patients do not become addicts. Within a few years of this medical breakthrough, laws encouraging appropriate treatment started being passed. Fifteen years later they are still being ignored. The drug police routinely violate these laws in their continuing witch hunt against the medical profession, thwarting the will of the people and denying pain sufferers their right to compassionate treatment.
"I don't think any of his patients are worse off because he (Dr. Fisher) is in jail."
Anthony Lewis, Deputy Attorney General and lead prosecutor
This heartless assertion, which many of Dr. Fisher's patients challenge and deeply resent, exemplifies law enforcement's intolerance of pain treatment.
Did Dr. Fisher Practice Good Medicine?
Prudent practices were adhered to at the clinic to ensure safe treatment of Chronic Pain. These precautions included:
… Rigorous pre-treatment screening, to exclude potential abusers of pain medications. Despite multiple attempts, devious undercover agents sent by the prosecution, posing as bogus Chronic Pain patients, obtained no opiates from Dr. Fisher's clinic. This attests to the efficiency of his screening.
… Mandatory evaluations of all Chronic Pain patients, by a licensed mental health professional.
… Ejection of patients caught lying, diverting medications or ingesting non-therapeutic doses. As a result the clinic ejected 400 patients for failing the standards of integrity required by Dr. Fisher's practice.
Dr. William Hurwitz, a nationally recognized pain expert who assisted in the preliminary hearing, reviewed Dr. Fisher's practice and found that it falls well within the standard of care for current pain management. The government's own witness, Dr. John Eisele testified that it appeared upon his review of the records, that Dr. Fisher had practiced medicine in good faith.
What's Happening Now?
After Dr. Fisher and the Millers spent five months in jail all nine murder accusations were dismissed Judge Gallagher, who found no evidence to sustain them. Manslaughter charges remain. The prosecution has already squandered millions of dollars entrusted to them by California taxpayers. The Attorney General's Office refuses to dismiss, even faced with mounting evidence that this prosecution was a mistake from the outset.
Most doctors, when confronted with this sort of assault by drug cops are forced into settling (pleading to a lesser crime) by financial pressures. Dr. Fisher and the Millers won't capitulate, as a matter of principle. Acquittal here will establish a precedent, protecting doctors and patients against this type of intimidation.
The prestigious San Francisco Law Offices of Patrick Hallinan leads the defense team.
Update on Fisher/Miller Case
September 5, 2002 there was a hearing in which a continuance was ordered because of scheduling conflicts.
A new trial date has been set for December 10, 2002 at 9:00 AM.
Frank B. Fisher, MD