Friday, December 31, 2010

Witness: The Death of PRN

Jason Smith, ©2005 Endeavors magazine.
The fact that I pass this on here should not be misconstrued as blanket endorsement of PRN and its activities (more like a 50" x 58" "delightfully soft" throw), nor should you look to find any glee at the organization's demise.  You especially should not infer the slightest bit of agreement with any forward-looking political endorsements. 

What you should eke out from this visit is outrage at government excesses in prosecution and criminalization.  You should bring a cold and calculating eye to the activities of the Justice Department, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway and her dealings with PRN founder Siobhan Reynolds in the Kansas Schneider case.

At the end of the day...

It is what it is.

And so on

And so forth...

No, it's not that I don't care, or want you to.  I am tired.

The change needed to support real treatment of chronic pain requires such a paradigm shift by the larger society that I don't expect much more progress in my lifetime.  I mean, first, this medically supervised therapy must somehow substract itself from the ravages of the confused, confusing, and bloody Drug War.  And to do that, the Drug War must either end or be sufficiently infused with clarity and science that it will have moved beyond the horrible heuristics in which it is presently engaged.

One might wish to begin by subtracting doctors from the classification of "drug dealers," noting that the exception makes the rule, and that adequate penalties and avenues for redress are already in force.

Clearly, the Drug War, as currently prosecuted, is one of attrition.  Witness one of its casualties:

The End of PRN
To: The Pain Relief Network Community
From: Siobhan Reynolds
Dec 29, 2010

The Members of the Board of Directors and I have decided to shut down PRN as an activist organization because pressure from the US Department of Justice has made it impossible for us to function. I have fought back against the attack on me and PRN but have received no redress in the federal courts; so, the board and I have concluded that we simply cannot continue.

It is important to note that PRN has been refused standing in federal court to sue the federal government in defense of the patients’ Constitutional rights; this, when the Sierra Club has been given leave to sue powerful entities on behalf of insects. Even after changing tactics by suing under the names of persons directly injured both materially and Constitutionally, the federal courts in the 9th Circuit denied standing to a doctor and a group of his oppressed patients; preventing them from suing the State of Washington for their dangerous and lawless attack on the rights and personal welfare of Washington doctors and patients.

It certainly appears that the legal deck is stacked against pain patients and doctors. Despite this, others will keep trying because so very much is at stake. A group of us may bring another action in the Western District of Washington in the near future; but exactly how that will be framed is not yet clear. In any event, the action will not be undertaken under the auspices of PRN.

People in pain are still being abused, neglected, and left to die by the entire system. Physicians brave enough to treat chronic pain continue to be intimidated and prosecuted. It breaks my heart that we have to stop, but there is simply no way forward for PRN.

With the dissolution of PRN, I will be bowing out, but a group of former PRN leaders are going to keep the web site up (minus the donation page), as a resource for information. Members are free to set up their own talking area elsewhere. I suggest the PRN community put together a Facebook page where the conversation might continue. I would be happy to put the word out about any separate patient efforts. We will also continue to update the news on the site as a public service.

We are proud of all we have accomplished given how little funding we received. The Drug War is a beast. I believe the only legislative efforts that have a chance at changing the current state of affairs are those supported by Congressman Ron Paul. He and many of the groups he supports are aware of what patients suffer. If you want to continue to push for a change in the drug laws, I suggest you do what you can to support their efforts.

Siobhan Reynolds

Some background reading from Cato @ Liberty and Adam Liptak's NYT Sidebar.

To learn more about pain, I suggest visiting the site of the American Pain Foundation.

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