agony. With the right dose, consistently maintained, the victim can sometimes lead a reasonably normal life.
But chronic pain patients, by definition, don’t get better and they sometimes get worse. That’s the problem. The drug enforcers may be willing to let doctors prescribe a reasonable amount of pain medicine for, say, a lung removal, but they expect these prescriptions to taper off quickly. Anyone who gets an ongoing dose of narcotics—let alone an increase—gets the attention of state and federal officials, and every other day they lift some doctor’s license. So the medical profession, not surprisingly, has largely abandoned the field, and most doctors actively avoid treating any of these tortured souls. For the past half-century, they have been left to their own devices, screaming in a vacuum.
But there’s always some guy who’s compassion gets ahead of his sense of self-preservation, and in this case it was a D.C. physician named William Hurwitz. It was the trial of Dr. Hurwitz that brought Ed Bradley to Virginia. The State Board of Medical Examiners was in the process of pulling his license, and the hearing room was full of patients who had come from all over the country begging the officials not to sanction him. Hurwitz, they said, was the one doctor with the courage to help, and between them they represented an awesome collection of physical agony.
Jim Klimek came from Tennessee. His car had run off the road on a long-ago winter night and when he was discovered the next morning his legs were frozen. Gangrene set in and a series of amputations followed that ultimately cut away everything below his navel. Only his torso, head and arms remain. But the nerve endings they sliced through are still active, and he claims he needs morphine to deal with the sensation that his lower half is still in the process of being sawed off. In Virginia, however, narcotics agents are trained to see through this kind of clever ruse. They know that many times people like Klimek are simply faking their symptoms to feed a drug habit. As the Virginia State Police manual warns, “Physicians should be alert for ‘Professional Patients’ showing up in wheelchairs missing various limbs.”