What's worse -- a medical professional who sells prescription pain pills for profit or a medical professional who steals prescription pain pills to feed their addiction? Two recent cases -- one from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the other from Iowa's Quad Cities region -- raise both issues. And each allows us to look at the actions of medical professionals who go bad.
This of course is not a question to be answered by someone still in active addiction. In the first case, they'd probably want to take advantage of the profiteering prescriber. In the second, they'd likely identify with the pill-pinching addict. That's even if said addict pinched those pills from their very own patient. After all, most addicts have pulled off some very diabolical deeds in order to feed their need.
But there are all kinds of wrongs here. In both cases the medical professional selfishly abused their trusted position. They both highly endangered their patients -- first by providing fatal quantities of medication, the second by denying the patient their much-needed pain relief. And please don't try to say the pill-pincher's thefts actually helped the patient by denying them an excess of addicting drugs. The thief cared not a whit about their patient's pain, so there's no way they were concerned with potential addiction.
Here are the two cases back to back. Neither medical professional had been convicted of a felony, so for all intents and purposes they're both basically considered (at least relatively) innocent. Since we're brightside types, we actually hope both are indeed innocent.
This first story comes from Lindsay Knowles at WLBT, the NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi. The case concerns a Dr. Robert Wiemer, who ran a pain management practice on Klondyke Road in Long Beach. Long Beach is a relatively small town in the Gulfport-Biloxi Metropolitan Statistical Area. That means, it's got great access to the Gulf of Mexico. It also means it sits right in the path of many a hurricane. In fact, the one-time "Radish Capital of the World" was so severely struck by Hurricane Katrina that it lost every single building within 500 meters (1600 feet) of the Gulf. The town still hasn't recovered.
Was Katrina's devastation behind Dr. Wiemer's decision to open and run a pill mill? Did he in fact even really run a pill mill? Knowles' report says the doctor pleaded guilty to just one misdemeanor charge of illegally distributing medication. His attorney told Knowles that amounted to a technical violation of writing an advance date on one prescription while he was having heart surgery. That's it.
It's Doc Wiemer's initial charges which raise all kinds of red flags. The Feds initially filed three separate indictments alleging up to 66 counts of illegally prescribing pain medication and sedatives, as well as additional charges of spending money received from the illegal activity.
And oh, what a scheming set-up did the Feds allege. Court documents said Weimer "used a location outside his professional practice to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam and carisoprodol dating back as far 2014." writes Knowles. "The documents also accused him of engaging in monetary transactions with property greater than $10,000 with amounts varying from $10,192 to $138,952."
As WLOX's Annie Johnson reported back in November 2019, the jury couldn't come to a decision and the entire case ended in a mistrial.
Consequently the proverbial slap on the wrist. Dr. Wiemer was sentenced to three years of probation and a $9,500 fine. As part of his sentencing agreement, the court has also ruled that he can no longer apply for or hold DEA registration. In other words, Doc Wiemer will never again be able to prescribe Schedule 2 narcotic medications.
Again, we don't know if Dr. Wiemer was guilty of the original slew of charges; nor do we know whether or not a natural disaster drove the doc into throwing out the rulebook. We do know such egregious things do happen -- a lot (hey, we're from Florida, the former pill mill capital of America). We also know that when these things do happen, they often cause a natural disaster's worth of wreckage in their own right. And any doctor who'd so callously break their Hippocratic Oath is a no good doctor in our book.
Quad City Thievery
Our next entry comes from Linda Cook at OurQuadCities.com, which seems to include content from both CBS-affiliated WHBF and Fox-affiliated KLJB. Whatever the case, this case involves one Kelcy Ann Hamilton, who was working as a nurse at Genesis Medical Center. Hamilton was accused of obtaining a prescription drug by “engaging in fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or subterfuge” between Sept. 21 and Dec. 3, 2020.
The arrest affidavit says Hamilton “diverted all or part of at least 143 doses of Dilaudid/Hydromorphone from 65 separate patients for her own personal use.” Ryan Dostal, investigator for the State of Iowa, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit – Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals, is the authority who says it.
As anyone who's ever had anything to do with painkillers knows, Dilaudid is among the strongest of the strong. In fact, the drug is so strong that it's primarily prescribed for chronically ill, palliative care patients. That means, if Hamilton did what authorities say she did, she took away much-needed pain relief from people who were ostensibly on their deathbeds.
The charge is a Class C felony, which usually punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000, reports Cook.
Hamilton also faces a misdemeanor charge of tampering with records. An affidavit says she “documented the administration of Dilaudid/Hydromorphone to patients in their official medical record to conceal the fact that she had diverted the medication.” Not cool.
Again though, Hamilton has pleaded Not Guilty. She should be considered Not Guilty until proven otherwise. And again, we truly hope she is indeed Not Guilty. We'd hate to see someone so egregiously abuse a hospital's trust, let alone a patient's. Then again, we also well know the lengths addicts will go to in order to get the drugs they so desperately need.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Aug. 27, and a jury trial is tentatively set for Sept. 6 in Scott County Court. So as of this writing, Hamilton should still be given the benefit of the doubt.
When Medical Professionals Go Bad
Recovery Boot Camp wishes to salute the legions and legions of medical professional who don't go bad. Ever. We'd also like to remind everyone that the above are but two out of millions and millions of medical professional stories. All in all, doctors and nurses do what they set out to do -- and that's to save lives. And the vast, vast majority does so with professionalism, empathy and care. In fact, the vast majority of medical professionals likely have less use for those who abuse the public trust than even the public does. After all, they don't want to see their profession demeaned.
Before we go, we'd also like to Thank each and every one of those millions and millions of medical professionals who continue to serve this country -- and who make this country proud. We'd also like to Thank Lindsay Knowles and Linda Cook for delivering such important story. It's crucial that bad folks are held accountable for their actions. A devoted press help provide a large part of that accountability.