November 21, 2007

"[A prison doctor] said he saw in me what he called 'the consciousness of innocence.'"

"It’s very dangerous. He said if you bring it into prison with you, you will have the most horrifying experience that a human being can possibly have. You won’t survive. You have to acclimate and accept your situation and not resist. You can’t keep holding on to your innocence. You have to let go of it and start acclimating."

Says Richard Paey, who didn't take the doctor's advice and did badly in prison. He is a paraplegic with multiple sclerosis who was convicted of drug trafficking, based on his possession of a large amount of painkillers, which he contended were solely for the treatment of his own pain. In prison, the state treated him with even larger doses of painkiller than he'd been giving himself.

Governor Charlie Crist pardoned him in October, and here he gives a long, interesting interview to Radley Balko of Reason. (And here's the Metafilter discussion of the piece.)
reason: Many people have compared your case to that of Rush Limbaugh. Some have said Limbaugh was let off because of his political affiliation. But reason’s Jacob Sullum has suggested Limbaugh was let off because he played the drug warrior’s game—he admitted he was an “addict,” and took his punishment. But you refused to say you were an addict, or concede that you’d done anything wrong. You insisted you needed painkillers to live a normal life. Sullum believes that’s why Limbaugh got a slap on the wrist, while you got 25 years.

Paey: I think Sullum’s take is pretty accurate. Mr. Limbaugh chose to label himself an addict. What I didn’t understand when I went to trial is that there is a tremendous fear of addiction in this country. The prosecutor in my case didn’t see me as a patient...

This is a serious problem we have in this country—this fear of addiction, and how we perceive the use of prescription drugs. There are lots of myths and misconceptions out there.

Whoever was counseling Rush Limbaugh gave him good advice. Admitting he was an addict played to his favor. I was convicted because the prosecutor hammered away at the jury that I was an addict and that my doctor was a pusher. I was sort of blindsided when the prosecutor started to make that argument—that I was nothing more than an addict. I can’t think of a worse slur to attach to a person.

CORRECTION: The governor who pardoned Paey was Charlie Crist, not Jeb Bush.

32 comments:

George said...

Understanding How Good People Turn Evil...

The Lucifer Effect

New work by Prof. Zimbardo, who conducted the Stanford prison experiment.

Scary book about how authoritarian situations dehumanize people...The paroled man was lucky to encounter a kindly prison doctor.

Paddy O. said...

Not sure about the prison sentence (well think it was overwhelmingly severe) but it seems wrong to suggest that someone with an illness isn't or can't be an actual addict.

Pain treatment is a very difficult topic but what I've learned from being around people with quite severe chronic pain is that addiction to pain killers is not a benefit.

There are ways of managing pain that go beyond the drugs for almost all chronic illnesses (including MS), and an overcommitment to pain killers seems to heighten the pain as the body needs more and more drugs and starts demanding them.

Rush Limbaugh, of course, doesn't have MS and was clearly addicted to pain killers that he didn't need, with the addiction driving the pain. Like most celebrities easy access makes for very bad treatment. He wasn't just playing a game with the Law. He was right about his weakness (and I say this not being a fan of his).

Maybe Paey really was in that much severe pain, but I don't think his experiences say too much about Limbaugh or even other sufferers of chronic sever pain. He made a choice of one response, a choice that apparently was such as to gain notice above and beyond the many millions of people who also suffer from severe pain.

Interesting story but not really a lesson or guide.

titusbk said...

Althouse aren't you going to give any credit to one of your peers at the University of Wisconsin who was one the reseachers on the new stem cell breakthrough.

He deserves your props and so does the UW. This is big news. Get on it bitch.

Lawgiver said...

The Reason article says Governor Charlie Crist pardoned Paey in October of 2007, not Jeb Bush as Ann states. Did I miss something?

jeff said...

Tough topic. Some prosecutors don't seem to see the difference in recreational addiction and pain management addiction. While Paddy O has an excellent point about people with chronic pain needing more and more medication, there is also the issue of the terminally ill being denied pain medication because of the fears of making them addicts. Having watch my dad pass from cancer, I would have zero problem with the Dr injecting heroin if it would have eased the pain. Regular morphine just knocks the edge off. I would rather trust My Dr than some lawyer in regards to pain medication, but look at what happened to Oxy. Now Drs stop prescribing medication in fear of being second guessed by a prosecutor somewhere. I'm glad Bush did the right thing for this guy.parrot1

JohnAnnArbor said...

and was clearly addicted to pain killers that he didn't need,

Didn't he have a major back problem of some sort?

John said...

Yep. Back problems probably from too much sitting/being overweight.

MadisonMan said...

John, it's hard to stand when you're a paraplegic.

jeff said...

Well madisonman, clearly he should have tried harder. And taken up jogging. And healing thoughts. Get right off of that medication.

Jeremy said...

Whoa, cross-talk. The Johns are talking about Rush but MM is talking about Paey.

As for Paey's final comment in the quote - well, that's just a failure of imagination.

Paddy O. said...

John, he likely needed it at first. The addiction continues the need for it, however. Which is why good doctors watch how they prescribe it.

It seems pretty hyperbolic for Paey to say that being called an addict is the worst slur he can think of. Being an addict in prison is like being called a felon. Almost everyone is. Now being called a child molester or a cop killer or all sorts of other things. But Paey sees his own issue as being the very worst possible charge.

This whole interview depends on the fact that most people give great deference to those who are ill. But just being handicapped or ill doesn't infer courage. There are courageous ways of dealing with it and less courageous ways. I know people who deal with their handicaps and chronic pain with heroism that astounds me.

Paey strikes me as someone who takes the quick and, honestly, less courageous route through life making his time in prison less about his MS and more about his personality and character.

The idea that he did bad because he held on to some supposed innocence sounds like a stretch.

I say this knowing people who deal with constant chronic pain, and people who have been in prison.

For those reaching an end with a terminal illness pain relief of course is a different issue. But addiction to pain medication is a severe issue and not because of some moral issue about drugs. It's bad for patients and should be monitored.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

"Get on it bitch"?"Get on it bitch"? "Get on it bitch"?"

F**k you Titus. F**k you.

Trooper York said...

Randy, hold on, you're gonna burst a blood vessel. That's just happy go lucky gay slang, I don't think Titus meant anything by it. I don't think he even realizes how it could be taken. It was an off hand comment, made in a joking, almost loving, if slightly hostile tone. I don't think the professor is going to take it personally.

Joan said...

Trooper, I read Titus' comment in exactly the same way, where in "bitch" is just another, shorter word for "girlfriend."

JohnAnnArbor said...

I find not reading Titus saves both time and synapses.

jeff said...

I don't think it is reserved for gay slang anymore either. I have heard it used in a ironic way between straight people.

Ignacio said...

As someone with MS who is in chronic pain, I would be interested in hearing Paddy O's recommendations for pain management that avoids opiates.

Acupuncture? Chinese herbs? More exercise? Positive thinking? Sheer will and guts?

Explain yourself, since you've "been around" people with "quite severe chronic pain."

Tolerance is a different matter than addiction, as I'm sure you're well aware. A well-known article in the Scientific American addressed this some years back.

You seem to feel no qualms about judging the "courage" of someone who has an incurable, degenerative disease.

Did you know that the majority of those poor souls who lent themselves to Dr Kevorkian's tender mercies suffered from MS? The post-mortem on their cases is that the pain which made them find life unlivable might have been treated, but there was "poor communication" between these patients and their health care providers.

Well, they don't sound very courageous. Maybe if you had been there you could have said "You're a coward if you think you need more medication for your pain! That's the LAST thing you need!"

Pogo said...

I used to be fairly certain about chronic pain until finding pain management for several patients extremely frustrating.

And then I read this article by William J. Stuntz, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard law School:

"Pain Principle," The New Republic, Sept. 11, 2006
here, as the article in TNR is now off-line.

Trooper York said...

I do think that the language at the Althouse blog has become quite coarse and vulgar. The use of *** to block out letters is time consuming and feels somewhat juvenile. The use such terms like blankty, blank makes me feel like Gene Rayburn in the Match game. So I would like to propose the use of an all purpose euphemism to replace any curse word or vulgarity. For example if you wish to use any type of vulgarity regarding feces, I would suggest we use the word Lucky. “Hey you are a Luckyhead.” “That’s Bulllucky my friend.” “Wow the guy was very lucky, he sure stepped in Lucky.” You get the idea. Also we can use the same word as a synonym for penis. “Hey Luckyhead, what are you talking about.” “You are a bunch of Luckysuckers, that’s what you are.” “When he pulled out his Lucky that was an immediate softy.” Got it. It’s the all purpose word to indicate something vulgar and unsightly. Remember, no matter how foul, scabrous and degrading a curse or imprecation might be, just say “Lucky” and we will know what you mean.

Dr. Ellen said...

Ah, Trooper York - but then someone will mention, say, "The luck of the Irish". Then we'll have the Hibernian Anti-Deprecation League down on Ann, and who wants that?

Trooper York said...

Yes but you are forgetting the essential "y" at the end. The "luck of the Irish" is a grand thing, but the "Lucky of the Irish" is what those shanty micks would wipe off their shoes. Beggorra my lass, God bless all here.

Neville said...

The vulgar over use of the word "addiction" when "habituation" or 'tolerance" apply, is probably only exceeded by the mistaken use of "nauseous" when one means "nauseated." Strictly - physiologically - speaking alcohol is not addictive, but nicotine is, and opiates as well. Psychologically speaking is another domain. Perhaps we should have two words to avoid confusion between a physical state and a mental state. [For a good overview and bibliography of the history of mind cure or "mind over matter" healers, one might try William James: Varieties of Religious Experience]. The 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning - written by Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl addresses some of the larger issues of being human, including pain. (one can read both Frankl and James on Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.org)

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

Bad hair day on my part, I guess. Or a failure to keep up with the times. What can I say? (Other than I don't like the word, its connotation, or its current widespread use.)

Trooper York said...

No reason to appolgize for being a gentleman of the old school. That is one of the thing I most respect and admire about you and your comments. These kids today, eh?

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I'm with you, Ignacio!

As for this particular case, good for Charlie Crist. I admit to being tempted to hope the prosecutor finds out what real chronic pain is like and is denied medication. What is it with Florida prosecutors anyway? IIRC, one of them prosecuted some guy in solitary confinement for masturbating. I guess these people have way too much time on their hands, I guess, what with the real crime rate in Florida being so low and all. Maybe someone ought to do the taxpayers there a favor and eliminate their jobs.

Neville said...

correction to typo : physiologically, alcohol and nicotine are addictive, as are opiates..

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I don't know if it's old school or what, trooper. I can cuss like a sailor under certain circumstances. Maybe it has to do with my parents. Never heard my dad say the f word in my life. (Lots of "Jesus Christ, Mary & Josephs" when we were growing up, though.;-) The first time I heard my mom say anything harsher than "damn" was last year when she was in the hospital and the pain was so bad that her bed shook as if an earthquake was happening. She said, "Oh shit." That was it.

Zeb Quinn said...

What is it with Florida prosecutors anyway?

Maybe because Florida was/is, but mainly was, ground zero of the drug scourge. In the 80s the entire system in Florida was corrupted because there was so much cocaine money. Virtually everybody was corruptable. Maybe that's one reason why they've become less tolerant there.

jeff said...

hey trooper, I thought we were already doing that.

Dr. Ellen said...

I take medication. Pretty much, I need it. Bad things happen if I quit. You could think it's addiction, or habituation, or all kinds of lucky words.

I have a simpler question: does the drug keep its half of the bargain? Does the same dose keep doing the same job, year after year? Then it's okay. Do I have to keep upping the dose? Let's try something else.

To paraphrase Freud: there are times when a crutch is just a crutch.

Revenant said...

It seems pretty hyperbolic for Paey to say that being called an addict is the worst slur he can think of.

This may be uncharitable, but being called "an addict" is often the worst thing a person can hear, if they ARE an addict. I've known a few practicing alcoholics, and the surest way to piss them off was to tell them they had a drinking problem. If you called them "child molesters" or "wife beaters" they'd probably have been more confused than angry.

Anyway, I don't personally give a rat's ass if the guy was an addict or not. Sending someone to prison for taking pain killers is simply unjust no matter WHY they are being taken.

Trooper York said...

Jeff, you and I are in the know, but we need to get the rest of our peeps in with the in crowd.