The U.S. high court sides with doctors in new ruling.
When considering the recent actions of the Supreme Court, there has been quite a bit of divisiveness. However, in a recent 9 to 0 ruling, the high court sides with two doctors who had originally been found guilty of violating a law in prescribing opioids that branded them as drug dealers. Appealing a jury’s decision that labeled them as such, the doctors and their attorneys were successful in striking this from their records.
The opioid crisis is a legitimate problem. Since the late 1990s, doctors have been prescribing opioids increasingly to patients. This has led to an increase in misusing these medications, overdosing, dying, or switching to other drugs when prescriptions run out such as heroin, which is cheaper and has the same effect as opioids.
The crisis has taken the lives of thousands of people in the United States alone, and there are still many more living with addiction. States are struggling to come up with initiatives designed to best combat the crisis, and no matter what programs are rolled out, it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
To combat the growing problem of addiction, the government has turned to many methods over the past few years, some of varying degrees of effectiveness. One of these methods resulted in this recent supreme court ruling. Doctors are finding themselves being targeted and prosecuted for prescribing these drugs because the government feels there is not a medical justification. Their practices are consequently often labeled as “pill mills.”
Are there doctors who purposefully fill prescriptions and know they are abetting opioid addiction? Of course. But there are also doctors who may do so unknowingly and are being unfairly punished under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
This ruling will help ease the burden placed on doctors and put it, instead, on the government to prove that the doctors are at fault. It will fall on the prosecutors to prove that doctors have knowingly written such a prescription when it did not serve any legitimate medical purpose. This provides some solace to physicians who need not worry about not only losing their licenses but also facing a fine and jail time if convicted.
The recent ruling also has benefits for patients. For those with cancer, the pain can be unbearable. Oftentimes the disease spreads to the point where all they can do is manage the pain. Because of the CSA, doctors would hesitate and refuse to prescribe strong painkillers to these patients, leaving them to suffer unnecessarily. People who experience chronic pain devoid of cancer and are looking for relief may also be denied any help because the doctors don’t want to face consequences.
The Supreme Court’s decision is a step in the right direction and will stop punishing the patients needing pain relief and the doctors who are just trying to help them. Only time will tell if the recent ruling will have a long-term impact on the justice system and how opioid cases are prosecuted. In the meantime, it offers some hope of a more level playing field.