Pain Doctor's Trial: Three Patients Saved

Pain Doctor's Trial: Three Patients Saved

Defense limited to the testimony of five former patients; many say Dr. Hurwitz saved their lives.

<b>MOLLY SHAW, 57</b>

<lst>For eight years, Molly Shaw, 57, remained bedridden with migraines and neuropathic pain so severe that "it was like putting tinfoil on a tooth nerve with no end in sight."

"I lived at the emergency room," testified Shaw, who said she was advised to retire after 25 years of teaching special education because of the pain.

"I got out of bed to use the facility and to throw up, that's it," said Shaw, the defense's 8th witness.

On June 30, 2002, an emergency room doctor in New Mexico gave her a shot of Dilaudid. "It took all my pain away; it was the first time I was pain free in years," she testified.

But when she told her family physician and other physicians of her "miracle drug," Shaw testified that doctors said they were afraid to prescribe the pain killer. Only after Shaw tried a radical, but unsuccessful, brain surgery in Massachusetts, Shaw's husband found Dr. William E. Hurwitz on the Internet.

"For eight years, she was bedridden … she was losing hope," said Judge Charles R. Barnhart, after the court session finished Thursday, Dec. 2. "I couldn't leave any stone unturned and could not rest until I tried everything."

They traveled to McLean in the early fall of 2002 to see Hurwitz, who was willing to prescribe Dilaudid for Shaw.

"The very day he gave [the prescription] to me, my husband and I went to Washington D.C. and we went to the park and I took my medicine," Shaw testified. "I started crying. My husband said, 'Oh, no. It's not working.' I said, 'No, I'm crying because I have no pain at all.'

"He treated me as an adult, talked to me like an adult, he said take a few and if it doesn't work, take a few more," testified Shaw, who took 60 to 100 pills a day.

There are side effects to taking large amounts of pills — "I'd rather not take the medication, but it's far better than having the pain," Shaw testified.

Before Hurwitz closed his practice in December 2002, he referred Shaw and her husband to a doctor in New Orleans, who has continued prescribing her Dilaudid. The couple wasn't able to find any doctor in New Mexico to continue Hurwitz's treatment.

Hurwitz' defense was permitted to call just five of his former patients to testify and only one per family, so Barnhart didn't testify in court though he wanted to.

"I hope she got to the jury; I know every time she talks about it, it gets to me," said Barnhart. "Dr. Hurwitz saved my wife's life."

"When I got my life back, he got his life back," Shaw said. "If this happens to [Dr. Hurwitz], this could happen to the clinic I got to now and then I would be back in bed again."

"The government should be protecting doctors, not prosecuting them," Barnhart said. "Doctors shouldn't have to be police enforcers."



Four words spoken outside the courtroom revealed more than 15 minutes of testimony inside.

"He saved my life," said Dr. William Fleischaker, a retired physician standing outside the 8th floor courtroom of the United States District Court in Alexandria.

"My husband was in a wheelchair," said his wife Jo Fleischaker. "He wouldn't be walking if it wasn't for Dr. Hurwitz."

Fleischaker, the seventh defense witness who testified Friday, Dec. 3, first went to see Hurwitz in November 1998, following surgeries for congenital cervical stenosis.

"I was losing the ability to walk. I felt like I was on fire constantly from my diaphragm to my legs," testified Fleischaker.

Fleischaker testified that the dosage Hurwitz prescribed to treat his pain was "not something I expected," but enabled him to "endure the physical therapy" he needed.

"If I didn't do the physical therapy, I wouldn't have regained the ability to walk," he said.

<ro><b>SYLVESTER BOYD, 50</b>

<lst>During a birthday party for his daughter at an ice rink 15 years ago, Sylvester Boyd fell and was knocked unconscious. Boyd, 50, suffered bone fractures in his back and tail bone and tearing of cartilage, tendons and muscles in his back.

For the next 12 years, Boyd testified, he tried physical therapy, an electronic device that stimulates the nerves and a "microwave contraption" — "I had just about everything you can imagine, except for surgery on my back," testified Boyd.

Doctors prescribed him two pills of Vicodin a day, which was "wholly inadequate," said Boyd.

"It was constant, unrelenting pain, just pain, pain, pain — it nearly destroyed my life," testified Boyd, who uses a cane to walk. "I couldn't go to work, I was perhaps a day away from being fired, I was at the end of my rope. It gets to a point where shockingly suicide is not an option you're willing to dismiss."

Boyd, a senior network engineer for Verizon Communications, found Hurwitz, whose McLean practice was close to where he worked. After suffering for 12 years, Boyd said the prescription of OxyContin Hurwitz provided him provided "immediate relief." Hurwitz soon changed his prescription to Dilaudid, because of side effects from OxyContin.

"It gave me a new life," Boyd said after his court appearance. "Afterwards, my family had a husband and a father back.

"Society needs to be educated to this because there are millions of us who are suffering. There is a patient Bill of Rights patently ignored because of fear and intimidation," Boyd said.

"Walk a mile in my shoes, no, walk 50 yards in my shoes. … The more they scare off the doctors, what happens to the millions like me?