Our Country may have been founded on principles of personal freedom and liberty, but the enveloping police state is acting with all dispatch to suppress “limited government”. Your government, in the mad pursuit of the “war on drugs”, jailed a 78-year-old senior citizen for “doctor shopping” on the thinnest of pretexts.
Mrs. Shipley (not her real name) was arrested in September, 2012, by a detective with the Port St. Lucie Police Department. Mrs. Shipley promptly retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland for her defense against these charges. The subsequent investigation would establish yet another instance of government run amok.
To stem abuse of prescription pain drugs, the State of Florida implemented a prescription drug monitoring program. Pharmacies are compelled to submit prescription data for certain medications. The eagle-eyed Port St. Lucie detective uncovered three questionable transactions involving Mrs.Shipley. The dutiful detective then approached two of Mrs. Shipley’s doctors and “requested” that each doctor sign an affidavit that he prescribed a pain killer not knowing that the other doctor had prescribed a pain killer for Mrs. Shipley. The pain management doctor claimed that he did not know that the primary care physician was prescribing pain medication. The primary care physician claimed that he did not know that the pain management doctor was prescribing pain medication. Both doctors were wrong, but Mrs. Shipley found herself being arrested for doctor shopping.
Garland’s defense investigation established the following facts:
1. Mrs. Shipley suffered from a variety of medical conditions. These problems included cancer, disc problems in her spine, and knee/hip issues.
2. In the spring of 2010, Mrs. Shipley’s primary care physician suggested that she reduce her use of opioid pain killers which had been prescribed by a “pain clinic”. The primary care physician referred Mrs. Shipley to an appropriate surgeon for possible surgical intervention. After a complete workup, and consideration of the alternatives, Mrs. Shipley declined to have the surgery performed. Mrs. Shipley recognized that surgery would solve only one of her multiple medical problems.
3. Mrs. Shipley requested that her primary care physician refer her to another pain clinic which would not use opioid pain killers. The primary care physician made that referral in October, 2010. The specific agreement and understanding was that the pain doctor would only provide non-narcotic injections. The primary care physician continued to prescribe reasonable amounts of pain medication.
4. Under the terms of Mrs. Shipley’s insurance, the pain clinic had to report every evaluation and recommended treatment to the primary care physician. Each treatment had to be specifically approved by the primary care physician.
5. The pain clinic continued to provide non-narcotic treatments until November, 2011. The
pain clinic, at that time, began to provide opioid medication. Of course, the pain clinic’s
prescriptions were provided to the primary care physician. Mrs. Shipley was led to believe that both the pain clinic and her primary care physician were constantly monitoring each others’ activities. Unfortunately, there were three prescriptions from the pain clinic which “overlapped” with prescriptions from the primary care physician.
This case was about two doctors who were supposed to communicate with each other about the care and treatment of their mutual patient. Mrs. Shipley was caught in the middle. She received all of her opioid prescriptions from the two doctors who were supposed to be talking to each other. What did Mrs. Shipley do wrong?
Both the pain clinic and the primary care physician created a huge amount of paperwork. These documents thoroughly recorded the communications which went between the doctors. Although they were fully aware of what each other was doing and prescribing, both doctors apparently forgot about the existence of each other – and this extensive documentation – when interviewed by the Port St. Lucie detective. Both doctors denied any knowledge that the other was prescribing pain killer medication.
All charges were dropped on June 7, 2013, after Attorney Garland presented the prosecution with the extensive medical documentation. While it is good that the charges were dropped, it is disturbing that a senior citizen was arrested, jailed and prosecuted for over eight months. Something is entirely wrong with a government which creates laws that permit police to arrest and imprison a senior citizen for simply following the treatment called for by her doctors. There was never a hint that Mrs. Shipley used her medication except as directed. In fact, the medical records documented two occasions Mrs. Shipley attempted to return the pain clinic’s medication, because it made her sick.
The medical records show that the pain clinic and primary care physician figured out the overlapping prescriptions on their own. The issue was resolved by good doctors trying to help their mutual patient. The police investigation began months afer the issue had been fixed.
Civics books may tell you that the State bears the burden of proving a citizen guilty. Mrs. Shipley would tell you that, in her case, the ideal is just a bunch of “heifer dust”. She was jailed by a detective who never asked for her side of the story and never looked at the medical records. Every citizen, regardless of age, is at risk of sudden arrest to appease the gods of the drug war.
Big government is less enthusiastic about prosecuting the largest traffickers of
prescription drugs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently let Walgreens off the hook for illegally distributing “powerful pain killers such as oxycodone to illegally wind up in the hands of drug addicts and dealers”. The DEA forced Walgreens to pay an $80 million settlement for illegally distributing drugs, a mere drop in the cost of doing business bucket for a large corporation.
It’s funny how big business gets off with a small fine. A little old lady gets sent to jail and criminally prosecuted. Our Country’s founding fathers would be surprised to learn that corporations are treated better than people…such is equal justice under law in the new world order. See “Walgreens to pay millions in settlement”, The Palm Beach Post, B2 (6/12/13).