SCOTUS Sides With Doctors Convicted of Overprescribing Opioids

    Photo: AP Photo [via The Washington Times]

    The Facts

    • SCOTUS has ruled in favor of doctors in Xiulu Ruan v. US, concluding that prosecutors must prove doctors knew they were illegally overprescribing powerful pain drugs in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, in order to press criminal charges against them.

    • The dispute itself concerned pain management medical clinics run by doctor Xiulu Ruan in Alabama and doctor Shakeel Kahn in Arizona. Ruan was previously sentenced to 21 years in 2017 and Kahn to 25 years in 2019 - both were convicted under the Controlled Substances Act.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    This is a blow to the DOJ's attempts to prosecute physicians and other illegal overprescribers as the US continues to be crippled by an opioid crisis. While the DOJ has sought to broaden the authority to charge, this decision will do the complete opposite, potentially expanding the opioid epidemic and any chances of the Federal government stopping it.

    Narrative B

    This win is significant for the defense not only of doctors innocently trying to improve the lives of their patients, but also general criminal liability surrounding negligence. It will help resist the threat of overcriminalization, and force the law to further take into account the contextual morality of prescribing opioids.

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