Should more doctors go to jail?

Famous people die every year with gobs of prescription drugs in their systems. Should the doctors who prescribe these drugs face legal penalties, even jail time?

Dr. Ivan Goldsmith and Jill Oliver, from Las Vegas Review-JournalChris Benoit. Anna Nicole Smith.

Famous people die every year with gobs of prescription drugs in their systems. Should the doctors who prescribe these drugs face legal penalties, even jail time?

Thomas Perls thinks so. He's helped produce a commentary for the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting it's time more do.

While Benoit sought steroids to bulk up and become a professional wrestler, while Nicole Smith used a variety of drugs to control her moods, Perls' target are so-called "weight loss clinics" and "anti-aging clinics" run by licensed physicians.

Many of these clinics are prescribing human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, and other dangerous drugs for conditions they weren't designed or approved to address, he writes.

Why aren't medical societies re-examining the licenses of these doctors, he asks? Why aren't plaintiff's attorneys putting them out of business? Do we really need the criminal law involved?

In the case of Benoit, Dr. Phil Astin now faces a 175 count indictment covering 18 patients who were given, not just steroids, but such drugs as methadone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Demerol and Xanax. That's an extreme case.

Dr. Perls is looking instead at people like Dr. Ivan Goldsmith of Las Vegas, who calls his combination of FDA-approved drugs Phentermax and pushes them through a MySpace page.

In the picture above, from a Las Vegas Review-Journal story on his practice published in January, Dr. Goldsmith is being injected with drugs which claim to "kill" fat cells. The treatment has not been approved by the FDA, the article notes.

MSNBC contributor Brian Alexander recently questioned these practices, focusing on a former Goldsmith patient named Jeff Beacher. He called Goldsmith's actions "standard operating procedure in some of the nation’s anti-aging and weight-loss clinics."

Is this unethical? Should it be illegal? Should the licenses of such physicians be pulled, and should they be hauled into criminal courts?

Dr. Perls' article is mainly focused on the use of HGH as a claimed anti-aging or weight loss agent, but even without HGH these clinics, and these doctors, would be pushing something else. It's their business.

Should it also be the profession's business? The civil courts'? The criminal justice system's? Where are the ethical or legal boundaries, or should this all be a case of buyer beware?[poll id=20]

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