This section of John Stossel’s “Hands Off My Meds” has a clip with physician Dr. Frank Fisher. Prosecutors indicted Fisher for the deaths of several patients by prescribing pain medication. The Doctor spent five months in jail and spent all of his money on legal fees before finally being acquitted. The doctor mentions he is fifty-six years old and is basically starting over because the cost of defending himself left him with a net worth of zero.
The clip from didn’t fully explain just how unfairly Dr. Fisher was treated by the legal system. Here is a bit from Stop the Drug War (stopthedrugwar.org) on Dr. Fisher:
It was Medi-Cal fraud charges that were at the core of Fisher’s latest legal case. Prosecutors originally charged Fisher with 99 counts of medical fraud regarding Medi-Cal claims and improper prescribing, but a state court judge dismissed all but eight misdemeanor counts of improper billing earlier this year. Now, he has been found innocent.
“Over five years ago, Attorney General Bill Lockyer came to Redding and declared that by arresting and detaining Dr. Fisher, his prosecutors had shut down the biggest drug ring in the history of Northern California,” Reynolds continued. “Apparently unaware that aggressive pain management had become a widely recognized imperative of mainstream medicine, Lockyer sought to characterize Dr. Fisher’s practice as sinister. Most of Dr. Fisher’s patients have been unable to obtain the quality of pain care they’d received from him, hundreds have deteriorated unnecessarily, and several have died as a result. At the time of Dr. Fisher’s arrest, for example, twenty-five people who had been working, with Dr. Fisher’s help, were forced to apply for full disability. In response, PRN intends to hold the State of California and participating counties and municipalities accountable for their wanton and reckless conduct.”
Here’s what one juror had to say to Dr. Fisher in an e-mail he received after the trial: “I was juror #1. Now that I am home and can read about you on the Internet, my heart really goes out to you for what you have been through. I was upset that the prosecutor wasted my time and the court’s time on such a weak case. But now that I know what you have really been through I feel embarrassed and selfish to be thinking about my own time. I hope you can reopen your clinic some day and get back to practicing medicine, in your office or back room or anywhere you choose. Thanks for doing the job most doctors won’t.”
What caught my attention with Stossel’s show was the discussion about fairness and medicine. In the health care debate the argument is often made that it is unfair for someone to lose all their life saving do to an illness. It a tragedy when someone loses all their saving do to an illness, but its not an injustice and has nothing to do with being fair. What is unfair, is when someone loses everything due to an injustice. Life is fair, and only people can choose to be unfair and unjust.
What is unfair is there is no call to protect people who have had their life savings destroyed by acts of an overreaching government. There is no call for a universal insurance policy to cover individuals like Dr. Fisher from the reckless conduct of zealous prosecutors. No charts or graphs to show the increasing costs of defending yourself in a free country. Not a word of debate over how people can continue to afford living free when the cost of freedom has risen to everything you own plus time in prison.
There is no comparison between wanting the government to be concerned about helping its citizens when the randomness of life deals them a tragedy, and the callousness of government causing a tragedy, because the first is about charity and the second really is about fairness.
If the government is concerned about protecting people from unfairly being wiped out, it should start by looking at itself.