A federal jury convicted a prominent former Virginia pain doctor on drug trafficking charges, siding with prosecutors in a contentious dispute over whether prescribing large doses of powerful narcotics is criminal behavior or good medicine, the Washington Post reports. Jurors convicted William Hurwitz on 50 counts — including trafficking that caused the death of one patient and seriously injured two others. They acquitted him of nine other counts and deadlocked on the final three.
The convictions marked the downfall of a controversial doctor whose methods attracted loyalty from many patients but also scrutiny from area medical boards. Hurwitz, a major figure in the growing field of pain management who was once profiled on “60 Minutes,” faces up to life in prison. As patients in chronic pain became increasingly vocal about access to successful treatment, Hurwitz became a symbol in a nationwide debate. Advocates portrayed him as a fully licensed doctor prescribing perfectly legal drugs to patients in dire need with nowhere else to turn. The government accused him of prescribing excessive amounts of dangerous drugs — in one instance more than 1,600 pills a day — to addicts and others, some of whom then sold the medication on the black market.