This articles by Pat Anson of Pain News Networks sites the first opinion piece from a practicing attorney that I have read since I started covering the opioid crisis and it is long overdue. Counselor Barnes is a managing partner of DCBA Law & Policy, a law firm that advises healthcare providers.
There are several individuals in the chronic pain community who have attempted to monitor the actions of the DOJ and DEA when they go after healthcare professionals, but by practice, the DOJ does not make public announcements unless they actually bring charges against an individual. There are many more who are investigated but never charged, often leaving the investigation open for months and years. In such situations, the healthcare provider is often suspended from practicing until the investigation closes or charges are brought, which for a healthcare provider is not that far from being in jail pending charges.
“It’s quite frustrating to see how their careers were ruined even though they never faced criminal charges. That’s because the government was incapable of bringing credible charges against them,” says attorney Michael Barnes. “When I read a criminal complaint, what I would see as ‘best practices’ is construed as criminal exploitative behavior on the part of the prosecutors.
There’s a heavy bias against medications to treat pain and opioid use disorder that is driving some of the aggressive enforcement actions. Also, an overzealousness combined with a lack of understanding of the practice of medicine.
Barnes recently wrote an op/ed, published online by American University’s Washington College of Law, calling for an end to the DOJ’s “indiscriminate raids” on doctors.
Barnes goes on to cite cases his firm has been involved in where charges were never brought but the cases remain open, forcing doctors to retire or close their practices pending an outcome on the investigations. Barnes also describes how the DEA has co opted the cooperation of state medical boards in their efforts, hired private consultants from law enforcement to parce medical records. something for which they have no medical expertise. These individuals advise the DOJ and provide opinions to judges, justifying the raids on medical practices.
Barnes is advocating for legislation which would require the DOJ, State and local law enforcement to coordinate investigations through state medical boards while preparing and conducting such investigations. Rusty Payne, a DEA spokesman says, “Getting state medical boards involved, is not a good idea. I don’t think making it harder for us to scrutinize those that are acting outside the law is in anyone’s best interest.”
That made me wonder how a DEA agent would feel if a doctor brought in a law enforcement agent to consult on whether or not surgery or chemotherapy would benefit them in their cancer treatment?
The articles goes on to describe many other issues the chronic pain community has had suspicions about but lacked access to authoritative sources on which to document.