Tierney on Rottschaefer

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

I really wish I could just repost Tierney’s entire column today, but I suspect the Times wouldn’t look fondly on me if I did. If you can get a copy of the NY Times today, you should. It’s worth the dollar. Tierney’s column is a much-needed expose on the case of Dr. Bernard Rottschaefer, a case we’ve been covering on this site for several months.

This case is an absolute outrage. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan should be ashamed of the way she has treated this man, and for the way she continues to push for him to go to prison, despite overwhelming evidence that her drug war fervor led her to make a devastating mistake. It’s pretty well known now that Buchanan harbors political ambitions in Pennsylvania. In a just world, the way she and her office have behaved in persecuting this man would ground those ambitions before she kisses her first baby.

Tierney’s conclusion:

It’s especially unfair for the D.E.A. to go after doctors who treat pain, because they’re dealing with symptoms that are notoriously difficult to measure. Doctors can do tests, but they also have to make judgments based on what patients tell them — and the Rottschaefer case ought to show the federal drug warriors how tricky those judgments can be.

If you believe Riggle’s letters, as I do, there are two possible conclusions about the behavior of the D.E.A. agents and prosecutors. At worst, some of them illegally encouraged a witness to commit perjury. At best, they were duped.

The agents and prosecutors are supposed to be experts at detecting liars, and they had far better investigative tools available to them than Rottschaefer did. Yet they apparently weren’t careful enough or shrewd enough to see through Riggle’s story. If they don’t deserve prison time for that mistake, neither does her doctor.

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