Chronic Pain Doctor Battles Drug Cops -- Due to Drug War

From: Helen Dynda (
Wed Aug 1 00:39:48 2001

FAQ...Chronic Pain Doctor Battles Drug Cops - Due to Drug War

Re: THE ARREST & PROSECUTION The following Frequently Asked Questions and Answers are intended to acquaint site visitors with the facts surrounding the arrest and prosecution of Dr. Fisher and the Millers, which is ongoing, despite dismissal of the most serious (murder) charges.

What Happened? 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-eight 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 Safety 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 [1990] 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 1920s 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 1920 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 mental health evaluations of all Chronic Pain patients by a licensed 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.

What's Happening Now? After Dr. Fisher and the Millers spent five months in jail, all five counts of murder were dismissed by a judge 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 Attorneys General refuse 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. CBS intends to film the trial for a 48 Hours documentary.

The prestigious San Francisco Law Offices of Patrick Hallinan and Kenneth Wine lead the defense team. Trial is scheduled for October 17, 2000.

What Can I Do To Help? Winning this case will be a milestone in the fight to provide relief to patients with intractable pain. We deeply appreciate any and all help you can provide.

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