Pain Relief Advocate Pays High Price For Free Speech
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TOPEKA, KS – A federal court in Topeka, Kansas today imposed a $200 per day fine upon nationally renowned pain relief activist Siobhan Reynolds for her refusal to comply with a pair of subpoenas secured in an effort to chill her constitutionally protected speech, as well as an additional $200 per day fine upon her advocacy organization, the Pain Relief Network (PRN). Reynolds, who is President of PRN, has been an outspoken advocate for sufferers of chronic pain and physicians’ ability to provide appropriate pain management treatment without risk of criminal prosecution. The subpoenas are part of an ongoing grand jury investigation related to the federal prosecution of Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, who operated a medical practice specializing in pain relief and whose prosecution Reynolds has publicly condemned. Reynolds is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in the case.
“The constitutional rights of Ms. Reynolds, and of all Americans, must not come with a price tag. The court effectively decreed that she may remain free to exercise her First Amendment rights, but it will cost $400 a day,” said Jay Rorty, an attorney with the ACLU who represented Reynolds in court today. “While Ms. Reynolds is relieved not to have to go to prison today, the government is still imposing an unreasonable choice between exercising her right to free speech and going bankrupt.”
Today’s court order requires that both Reynolds and PRN pay fines of $200 per day for as long as she refuses to comply with the subpoenas – a penalty that will quickly bankrupt Reynolds and PRN.
“This fine is just the latest symptom of the federal government’s shameful assault on those who suffer from chronic pain and the doctors who work to bring them relief,” said Reynolds. “I chose to stand up in defense of patients, doctors and the First Amendment, and now I will pay the price. But I will continue to draw attention to the under-treatment of pain in this country and to expose the federal government’s callous policies that turn honest physicians and desperate patients into criminals.”
Reynolds founded PRN with her husband, since deceased, who suffered from an extremely painful congenital connective tissue disorder – a condition that their son, now 17 years old, has inherited. PRN is a national advocacy organization that offers support to chronic pain patients and opposes the criminal prosecution of physicians based on medical decisions.
On March 10, 2009, subpoenas were issued to both Reynolds and PRN ordering that Reynolds turn over all personal and organizational communications on any subject with any former employees or patients of the Schneider Medical Clinic or with any of dozens of named individuals, including members of the Schneider family and members of the Schneiders’ legal and medical defense team, as well as a record of all Reynolds’ phone calls for the past 17 months.
Emblematic of the subpoenas’ First Amendment intrusion is the demand for correspondence with a company that Reynolds enlisted to erect a billboard in support of the Schneiders – a clear example of constitutionally protected speech, according to the ACLU. The subpoena also seeks a copy of an advocacy video Reynolds made concerning pain relief and the government’s related prosecution of physicians.
The subpoenas are part of a grand jury investigation initiated by the same Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the Schneiders, and who had previously sought, and was denied, a gag order to prevent Reynolds from speaking about the Schneiders’ case. With the gag order denied, the prosecutor convened a grand jury and secured the subpoenas in an attempt to silence Reynolds by invading her privacy and by raising the specter of criminal prosecution, according to the ACLU.
The ACLU also contends that the subpoenas are an impermissible intrusion into the Schneiders’ defense team – an attempt to gain confidential information not otherwise available to the prosecution. Attempts by the ACLU and the Schneiders’ attorneys to quash the subpoenas have been denied by the court.
Reynolds’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on DEA Oversight concerning under-treatment of chronic pain and related overzealous federal enforcement may be found at: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/July2007/Reynolds070712.pdf
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