Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer? written by Eve Marson in partnership with writers Sarah Goldblatt, David Boodell and Mark Monroe, is the story of William Hurwitz, a doctor sentenced to 25 years in prison for his liberal distribution of pain medication. Marson interviews past patients and Hurwitz himself to learn more about the human body tolerance for medication, and discover if Dr. Feelgood was overprescribing, or simply trying to save his patients from pain. (LMB: 3.5/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Lindsy M. Bissonnette
Dr. William Hurwitz was one of very few doctors that would prescribe large quantities of opioid pain medication, which some patients desperately need to live their lives pain free. Since there is no way to quantify pain, or even prove if someone is in pain, it comes down to the honesty of the patient. Unfortunately, this makes most doctors suspicious of individuals always coming back for medicine, but not Dr. Hurwitz. He believes if a patient is in pain and medicine can alleviate it, it is his job as a doctor to help them. It is not his job to decide who deserves the medication.
Some of Dr. Hurwitz’s patients committed suicide the first time his license was suspended, because they were not able to get the amount of medication needed to combat the pain they were in. He had developed the concept that if a certain dosage did not treat the pain, the increment must be doubled to see a noticeable result, and this process continues until the correct dosage is found. While some doctors think this is reckless, Dr. Hurwitz firmly believes there is no such thing as too much. The body’s tolerance for the medication plays a big part in why some patients do not feel results. “[I] will not judge people for their frailties.”
Unfortunately, there are cases of patients “losing” their prescriptions, or “losing” their medications. Dr. Hurwitz’s staff red flagged these patients, but he refused to turn any patient away and deny them medication without concrete proof that they were selling or abusing. While some patients committed suicide when his practice was suspended, others became addicted to the painkillers and overdosed.
One main takeaway of the documentary, is that Dr. Hurwitz did not receive money based on the amount of medication he prescribed. He had no personal gain for prescribing the amount that he did. Yet, some of his patients who intentionally obtained painkillers for the purpose of illegally selling them received less jail time then he did. Those same patients even admit to telling policemen what they wanted to hear in order to receive less time in prison.
Director Eve Marson does a great job of showing each side of the story. From Dr. Hurwitz’s naiveté, interviews with his patients that desperately need doctors like him to distribute the proper amount of painkillers, and patients who deceived Dr. Hurwitz to make a profit. Dealer or healer? It is up to the viewer to decide.
© Lindsy M. Bissonnette FF2 Media (1/3/17)
Top Photo: A doctor pours out piles of pills.
Middle Photo: Dr. William Hurwitz on trial.
Bottom Photo: Dr. William Hurwitz at a piano, his new beloved hobby.
Photo Credits: Gravitas Ventures
Q: Does Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer? pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
There are very few scenes between two women, and in the few that do take place, the women talk about Dr. William Hurwitz.
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