Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Radley tears up Tandy

Thanks to Ben Harris who points out a link I missed at the The Agitator in Radley's series about the DEA's war on some doctors. This one is the best of the lot so I'm giving it a separate post.

Radley posted this column at the Cato Institute site back in April. He exposes the DEA's selective methods of prosecution and their underhanded tactics in obtaining convictions. For example, the mysterious disappearance of the DEA guidelines, that would have provided exculpatory evidence for an accused doctor's defense, from the agency's website. The DEA then successfully argued against their admission on the basis they weren't bound by them, in effect reneging on a tacit agreement they made with the pain management physicians that following the guidelines would keep them safe from prosecution.

The DEA's Karen Tandy subsequently made a reply in print. In this post, Radley fisks the pants off her response. It's too long to excerpt but here's a few choice quotes from Balko.

The same page says that doctors are the "primary" part of the problem. If doctors are the main source of diversion, and the DEA is using "all available enforcement tools" to "disrupt these illegal operations," that sounds quite a bit like a campaign primarily directed at doctors, doesn't it?

You certainly don't solve the problem by arresting doctors who prescribe the drug, or by making the medication itself more difficult to obtain. Doing so means people who need the drug suffer, and the people who use it recreationally will merely move to something else.

So which is it? Are doctors a "very small part of the problem," or are they "the primary sources of diverted pharmaceuticals available on the illicit market?" I guess it depends on whether the agency is trumpeting its victories to Congress, or defending its tactics from critics in newspaper op-eds.

The DEA can harass doctors in a number of different ways, which is why the numbers can get so confusing. Tandy may be correct in asserting that the DEA arrested just 42 doctors last year, but how many did it investigate? How many did it charge? How many faced asset forfeiture? How many settled?

Tandy wrote in USA today a while back that the agency arrested just 50 doctors in 2003. But she neglected to mention that the DEA investigated more than 700. In 2001, it investigated 850.

As for what the public "deserves" from the DEA, well, Jesus. It would take several books worth of words to do adequate justice to the damage that agency has done to the people it "serves." I don't have much use for the DEA at all. But if we're going to have a drug war, it oughtn't interfere with the treatment of people who are sick and suffering. It shouldn't even come close.

It's a great fisk. Read it the whole thing.


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