Pubdate: Tue, 03 Sep 2002
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Section: Pasco County
Copyright: 2002 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Christopher J. Martino


Re: Richard Paey case

Editor: There is evidence of injustice to Richard Paey.

Richard is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School who 
suffered a severe physical setback with damage to his lumbar spine and 
postoperative complications. The ensuing pain created a medical need for 
pain control. This was never accomplished by the treating physicians, and 
issues have been raised with respect to his acquisition of additional pain 
control substances. The quantity of substance which he acquired fell under 
state statutes regarding possession of controlled substances and a 
subsequent trial led to a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Important issues need to be brought to light in this circumstance. Richard 
Paey's present age of 43 years would make him eligible to leave prison at 
age 68. If one were to take into account concurrent medical illness, it is 
very unlikely that he will survive to that age. This then would constitute 
a life sentence.

Pain management in this country has been woefully inadequate and continues 
to be so. This has been recognized at the federal level. One can acquire 
from any hospital administrator information used in the accreditation of 
hospitals to maintain a licensure. A fifth vital sign is now considered to 
be pain. Adequate control of pain is a mandate for a hospital to maintain 
its certification. Inadequate management of pain places a hospital at risk 
for closing its accreditation and service to communities. This mandate was 
created in response to an acknowledged misunderstanding of the necessity to 
alleviate human suffering. Our concept of treating pain is a rapidly 
evolving one. It is unjust to apply Florida's present law regarding the 
acquisition of controlled substances to a person who was using them within 
the confines of his own home, for his own defined medical condition, which 
required adequate pain relief.

It has been noted in objective accounts of this criminal investigation that 
no circumstance has been found in which any of the acquired substances were 
distributed to anyone else. They were for the sole use of Richard Paey for 
a chronic condition which was inadequately covered by the medical profession.

It has also been noted that prosecutors considered the human element in 
this circumstance at one juncture in time and offered a probation, 
three-year house arrest option. This option was removed after trial began 
due to a department policy.

It is curious how a policy generated by a limited number of individuals 
without public input could have the impact of sentencing an individual to 
life in prison, as opposed to probation in his own home.

The legal system is designed to create fairness across a wide range of 
situations covered by a limited number of laws. In the circumstances of 
Richard Paey's case, the system has broken down horribly. It is 
unacceptable for individuals with chronic pain conditions, undertreated by 
the medical establishment, to be sentenced for drug trafficking, especially 
under circumstances in which there is zero evidence of any distribution of 

As a society, we need to own up to the necessity for adequate pain control 
and the implications it has for the practice of medicine. Drug trafficking 
is the crime of distribution of illegal substances to others for personal 
profit. Medical pain management is the application of pharmacy and medical 
tools to alleviate pain in suffering individuals. The difference between 
these two is enormous. Why is it so difficult for the criminal system in 
Florida to figure this out?

Christopher J. Martino, D.O.,  Gulford, N.H.
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