Coming to theatres today, Friday, December 30: DR FEELGOOD: DEALER OR HEALER?
Eve Marson’s look at the issue of opioid use debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival this Summer. Other screenings have included Austin and Tallgrass.
Dr William Hurwitz challenged medical orthodoxy in the 1990s regarding the prescription of opioids and found himself charged with drug trafficking as a result. Based on then-newer clinical studies that countered long-held medical beliefs that such substances invariably led to addiction, Hurwitz felt an ethical mandate to help patients suffering from chronic pain – a notoriously difficult condition to verify in a quantitative way, and thus dependent on patient reporting. For some long-suffering patients, Hurwitz’s willingness to prescribe oxycontin came as a godsend, but also contributed to the explosion of a black market industry and the notice of federal agents, who set up patients as informants to determine if he was purposefully overprescribing to addicts or dealers. Marson allows Hurwitz to tell his story – and maintain his innocence – but also includes the views of critics who blame him for enabling the death or addiction of their loved ones, underscoring the ethical complexities of the issue. While America is still in the midst of an opioid epidemic, the well-told film’s focus on Hurwitz’s case grounds the film a bit too firmly in the past to fully convey a sense of urgency and timeliness, and its unfortunate tabloidesque subtitle also does it no favors.