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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dr. Volkman - A Benchmark Decision

"Dr. Paul Volkman was sentenced to four life terms 
after being convicted for distributing pain pills 
that led to overdose deaths of four patients."

Once the news of the sentence was reported by the media, people began to talk about the blame game and who is ultimately responsible for drug deaths. Of course, a significant number of people still say the person who consumes the drugs is the only one accountable for the death. I find this opinion extremely troubling. Let me explain why.

I believe in the case of a practicing pill mill doctor, debate on the direct effect of prescribed medications is really not relevant. I believe this because the improbability of proving the cause of death or injury to be any one illegally prescribed medication or script almost always prevents such a "smoking gun" finding.

Also, in the case of illegal medical operations, doctors must be held accountable because of the need of the public to trust the diagnoses of medical professionals and to rest assured physicians practice under the essential charge to practice ethically while avoiding overtreatment with special obligations to all human beings. 

The crime Dr. Volkman committed repeatedly was illegally prescribing and dispensing pain pills outside the scope of a legitimate medical practice. In fact, Volkman was found to be was largest physician dispenser of oxycodone in the U.S. from 2003-2005.

Government witnesses included pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions from Volkman, law enforcement agents and officers who investigated the deaths, Volkman’s employees, individuals who received pills from Volkman, medical experts and family members of the victims. Evidence presented during the trial showed that Volkman prescribed and dispensed millions of dosages of various drugs including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol. 

You see, Dr. Volkman was responsible 
for MORE than four deaths. 
He was the kingpin of an illegal distribution scheme
 unparalleled by any other in the country. 

As a crooked medical doctor, he knowingly wrote prescriptions for huge quantities of potentially deadly medications that contributed to numerous other criminal enterprises. People abused pills they obtained through his practice. People sold pills they obtained through his practice. And, sadly, people died due to his negligence of proper procedures both of accessing their need for medication and of addressing their proper pain management.

“Volkman was the physician at the center of a criminal scheme to distribute millions of controlled substances to hundreds of individuals in exchange for cash – a scheme that brought addiction, diversion, and death to southeastern Ohio and beyond,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tim Oakley and Adam Wright wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “During the course of this conspiracy, Volkman was the top physician purchaser of oxycodone in the country.”

Volkman made weekly trips between Chicago and three locations in Portsmouth, Ohio, and one location in Chillicothe, Ohio, to perpetrate his racket. During this time, his products contributed to untold cases of addiction and dependence, soaring crime rates, and unusually high rates of prescription deaths. The extent of permanent damage the flood of prescriptions caused in Southern and Central Ohio is indeterminable.

People ask, "Why hold a doctor responsible for deaths when an addict kills himself by putting these pills in his own body. What is next? Will carry-outs owners and bar owners get life sentences when the alcoholic products they serve and sell become a factor in a traffic fatality or in an alcoholic's death?"

First of all, no one is denying the final decision to endanger a life by abusing anything -- pills, alcohol, firearms, automobiles, sex -- is made by the individual in possession of the means. Often the state of mind and physical condition of this individual are key factors in a deadly decision. Nonetheless, the person who delivers his own means of expiration suffers the final consequences. In Scioto County, we have witnessed this for many years.

But, do bar owners and carry-out owners deliberately sell alcohol to those already inebriated? If they do, they could be charged with criminal negligence. For example, bartenders are obligated to cut-off a person that they perceive to be intoxicated. First of all, it may be difficult to determine if the person is actually drunk, but if they do not cut that person off, then they could be held accountable. True, civil courts, not criminal courts, will likely settle such matters with fines, etc. No one is going to receive a life sentence for their crime.

Still, you see, Dr. Volkman deliberately and illegally prescribed pain pills to his so-called patients
This means Volkman gave "remedies" to improperly diagnosed patients (by the way, doctors must prescribe medications accompanied by proper medicinal management) that were not intended to be used in the proper treatment of their disease with the full consciousness of the drugs' deadly, addictive nature and effects.

And, he also deliberately and illegally dispensed these so-called remedies. 

This means Volkman gave out his own unlawful prescriptions in house, which helped control and cloak his criminal enterprise.

Volkman prescribed and dispensed pain pills outside the scope of a legitimate medical practice.

This means Volkman falsely diagnosed patients, illegally prescribed pain pills and illegally dispensed them IN ENORMOUS NUMBERS outside the required standards of a lawful and professional medical operation.
Do you really believe...
1. The large majority of Dr. Volkman's patients were properly diagnosed?
2. The large majority of Dr. Volkman's patients were NOT illegally distributing their pain pills?
3. Dr. Volkman critically and successfully managed his actual pain patients?
4. Dr. Volkman wrote sensible, safe prescriptions for pain pills to safeguard that people would not become addicted to them?
5. Dr. Volkman operated his businesses according to the required legal and medical standards?
6. Dr. Volkman was not involved in a criminal conspiracy rivaling that of any organized crime racket?
7. Dr. Volkman was responsible for only four deaths through his greedy, unethical behavior?

8. Dr. Volkman ever cared about the collateral harm his criminal scheme caused?
"For what does it profit a man 
to gain the whole world, 
and forfeit his soul?"
- Mark 8:36
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