Implications for Pain Management Possible in Supreme Court Decision
The decision last week by the Supreme Court to uphold an Oregon law that allows physician-assisted suicide could help physicians who specialize in pain management and their advocates "to defend colleagues accused by the government of illegally prescribing narcotic painkillers to their patients," the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, dozens of physicians, pharmacists and patients are "now in jail or awaiting imprisonment after being convicted of drug trafficking," and their attorneys maintain that the Supreme Court decision "supports their contention that prosecutors have reached improperly into the state-regulated practice of medicine."
Eli Stutsman, an Oregon attorney who defended a physician and pharmacist involved in the Supreme Court case, said, "The prosecutors have been making a policy argument in court against the treatment of chronic pain as it's being practiced, and this Supreme Court decision makes clear that is not their role."
Will Rowe, executive director of the American Pain Foundation, said, "It's a decision that is on the correct side of the ledger, allowing states to define medical practice and to determine acceptable medical practice. I think that there definitely would have been more prosecutions than now if the decision went the other way."
John Nowacki, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said that "the department is committed to enforcing our nation's laws" and will "apply those laws to ensure that drugs are not diverted to unlawful uses." Nowacki added that "the government has brought criminal charges" and "has been claimed that there was no legitimate medical purpose for the distribution of controlled substances" (Kaufman, Washington Post, 1/22).