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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pain Management: A Double Standard? - by William Fisher

Two weeks from now, a South Carolina pain management physician will surrender at the Talladega, Alabama, prison to begin serving a 2.5-year sentence for drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering.
 
Dr. Michael Jackson is one of hundreds of pain management specialists arrested, charged and jailed by federal and state authorities for violating the Controlled Substances Act, designed to limit the dispensing of illegal prescription drugs by doctors and their use by patients.
 
Meanwhile, the high profile right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, charged with "doctor shopping" for prescription medication for chronic back pain, reached a settlement with the Florida State Attorney, which his attorney said will be dismissed in 18 months if Limbaugh complies with court guidelines. As a primary condition of the dismissal, Limbaugh must continue to seek treatment only from the doctor he has seen for the past 2.5 years.
 
In an interview, Dr. Jackson said the contrast between his treatment and Limbaugh's underlines "a widespread double standard - one for the 'haves' and another for the 'have-nots'."
 
"Not only do celebrities have access to the best lawyers, but they utilize their status in society, as I would have, if I were a 'somebody,'" Dr. Jackson told us.
 
He said, "The 'haves' include a long list of individuals," in addition to Limbaugh -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy's son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Miami Dolphins' football star Ricky Williams, former baseball great Darryl Strawberry, Florida Governor Jeb Bush's daughter, Noelle, former Pittsburgh Steelers football quarterback Joe Gilliam, and a multitude of other athletes, movie stars, and family members of the well-to-do", Dr. Jackson charged.
 
He added: "As for the 'have-nots', there is only one group to mention -- the poor. With few exceptions, they're the ones that fill the jails. And the 'haves' who have gone to jail only did so because they violated their probations; otherwise, they would be in rehab," Jackson told us. He said these included Strawberry, Downey, Gilliam, and Noelle Bush.
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