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Is Lynn Webster, MD a Leading U.S. Pain Specialist -- Or 'Dr. Death' as He Was Called During CNN interview?Marianne Skolek Salem-News.com
Includes the transcript of Dr. Gupta's CNN interview.
(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - Is Lynn Webster, MD one of the leading specialists in the U.S. on pain -- or is he truly "Dr. Death" as he was called in a CNN interview?
On December 7, 2013 Sanjay Gupta, MD aired a segment on CNN regarding the prescription drug overdose epidemic. In the CNN program the husband of a woman who died while being treated at Lynn Webster, MD's clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah contributed to the story by interview. His remarks on his wife's medical treatment by Dr. Webster leading up to her death may be just one reason the DEA is investigating Webster and his pain clinic. Here is the transcript of Dr. Gupta's CNN interview:
Dr. Gupta: Someone dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose and most of these deaths involve painkillers. Now, I'll tell you, part of the problem is that painkiller prescriptions in this country are being written at a furious pace. Dr. Lynn Webster is considered a leader in the field of pain management. He's president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Dr. Webster: We've got over 100 million Americans who are experiencing chronic pain.
Dr. Gupta: He's the author of a scoring system used by doctors to distinguish painkiller addicts from legitimate patients. And he's the founder of this pain clinic in Salt Lake City. What is his reputation?
Andrew Kolodny, MD (Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing): His methods are incorporated into almost every single educational program about prescribing opioids and even accepted by the FDA.
Dr. Gupta: But if you start to ask around a bit, you'll learn that his reputation among some former patients and their families is astonishingly different.
Roy Bosley (Husband of deceased patient treated by Dr. Webster): His reputation is he's known as Dr. Death.
Dr. Gupta: Known as Dr. Death?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
Dr. Gupta: That's how your wife's doctor was described?
Mr. Bosley: Dr. Death.
Dr. Gupta: Multiple overdose deaths at the Life Tree Pain Clinic which Webster ran for more than a decade now hover over him.
Dr. Gupta: There are allegations of irresponsible prescribing practices and in the case of one patient, influencing what was written as the cause of death.
Dr. Gupta: Roy Bosley's wife Carol Ann first went to the Life Tree Pain Clinic in 2008. Years earlier, her car had been broadsided.
Mr. Bosley: She did not have the seat belt fastened and went through the windshield.
Dr. Gupta: After several operations on her spine, she managed her pain with low doses of painkillers.
Dr. Gupta: She's still functioning doing everything she needs to do?
Mr. Bosley: Yes, yes.
Dr. Gupta: But that would soon change when a friend suggested Carol Ann go to the Life Tree Clinic. Within a few weeks of becoming a patient --
Mr. Bosley: Carol Ann was pretty much hooked.
Dr. Gupta: When you say hooked, you mean what?
Mr. Bosley: She was hooked on the pain medicine. She needed it.
Dr. Gupta: This is what Carol Ann was prescribed a year before her death -- a painkiller and an anxiety medication, between 100 and 120 pills a month.
Now, fast-forward one year. She was prescribed seven different drugs, painkillers, anti-anxiety pills, antidepressants -- all told, about 600 pills per month. The same steep climb in medications allegedly was seen among other patients who died after getting care at Life Tree.
Like this case, described in a medical malpractice claim recently filed against Webster and Life Tree. A 42-year-old who was prescribed about 200 pills a month when she first started at life tree. That's a little more than six pills a day. Seven years later, just before she died of an overdose, she was taking 1,158 pills per month or about 40 each day.
At the Bosley home, a sad spectacle filled with denial and overdoses began unfolding.
Mr. Bosley: There were numerous times that we ended up in the emergency room for fear that she was going to die.
Dr. Gupta: Bosley said he would regularly return home from work with Carol Ann unconscious and barely breathing. You took pictures of your wife essentially unconscious.
Mr. Bosley: Correct.
Dr. Gupta: Must have been a hard thing to do.
Mr. Bosley: Very hard.
Dr. Gupta: Bosley says he tried to show the photos to Dr. Webster and other staff members and he tried calling the clinic to vent his concerns. He was shut down, with staff citing patient privacy or HIPAA. You weren't so much as asking for information as you wanted to provide it.
Mr. Bosley: I said, I am not asking for information. And I was given the HIPAA excuse and that was the end of it.
Dr. Gupta: So, what does Dr. Webster have to say about the claims against him and his clinic?
Well, despite our best efforts, not much. He did, however, respond to lawsuits filed against him and his clinic and denied responsibility for the deaths. We called his spokesperson.
We certainly want to give him an opportunity to comment and to respond to some of this.
But he declined our interview. So, we decided to go straight to him.
I'm in Boston at an event where Dr. Lynn Webster is going to be speaking.
You know, we've repeatedly asked him for an interview and through his spokesman he was repeatedly declined. So, we decided to come here and ask him ourselves in person.
Dr. Webster? Sanjay Gupta, with CNN, I'm wearing a microphone. I wonder if I could ask you a couple of questions. I've been trying to reach out to your team --
Dr. Webster: I've got an appointment right now.
Dr. Gupta: Will you sit down and talk to us afterward?
Dr. Webster: I've got an appointment right now. Thank you.
Dr. Gupta: After the appointment, will you sit down and talk to us?
Dr. Webster: I've got an appointment.
Dr. Gupta: Can I walk with you? Are you walking to your appointment here? Will you answer a couple of questions for us?
Dr. Webster: No.
Dr. Gupta: You don't want to answer any questions?
Dr. Webster: No.
Dr. Gupta: OK, all right.
We did get a statement ultimately. In it, Dr. Webster says the clinic treated difficult and complicated people with pain, with the highest standard of care. He went on to call the deaths a tragedy of the worst kind for patients to die not from a result of treatment but in spite of it.
Mr. Bosley: She was doing great. She was up to walking almost five miles a day.
Dr. Gupta: Several months after starting at Life Tree, Carol Ann Bosley kicked the opioids and she went to rehab.
Mr. Bosley: She had lost weight. She was managing her pain on Tylenol, only.
Dr. Gupta: Soon afterward, he says Carol Ann got a call.
Mr. Bosley: She said, Dr. Webster has requested that we come down both of us come down and meet with him.
Dr. Gupta: To Roy Bosley's surprise, during the appointment, he says Webster suggested Carol Ann get back on narcotic painkillers.
Mr. Bosley: And my response to him was, my wife is addicted.
Dr. Gupta: About a year after that appointment, after taking his advice, Carol Ann Bosley overdosed again. This time, it was fatal.
But Carol Ann's story does not end there. Weeks after her death, the medical examiner had ruled her death a suicide.
Mr. Bosley: I said, why did you label it suicide? And he says, well, I called Dr. Webster. He told me that she committed suicide. Why do you have to call Dr. Webster to get a diagnosis? Shouldn't the diagnosis be based on the evidence in front of you?
Dr. Gupta: The Utah medical examiner's office say that Webster didn't have any influence over Carol Ann's stated cause of death -- which makes what happened next even more puzzling.
Mr. Bosley: Maybe five weeks later, I get a revised autopsy report. Cause of death, undetermined.
Dr. Gupta: When it came back undetermined, was there an explanation? They just changed it?
It's been four years since Carol Ann Bosley died. Her husband still wonders why his pleas for help to the staff at Life Tree and especially Lynn Webster fell on deaf ears.
Dr. Gupta: You blame Dr. Webster for your wife's death?
Mr. Bosley: I do. To this day, I regret that I did not go down there and find him. I would have pinned him to the wall, and I would have made him listen, and then I would have warned him with his life. Leave my wife alone.
Dr. Gupta: Now, I'll tell you some of the family members of patients who died of overdoses after receiving treatment at Life Tree did file lawsuits against Dr. Lynn Webster. And in response to those cases, Dr. Webster continues to deny all the allegations against him.
Now just a thought from me as I have written articles for years regarding Webster -- This to the DEA investigating the deaths at Webster's pain clinic in Utah -- if it walks like a duck -- swims like a duck -- and looks like a duck -- it is a quack.
Marianne Skolek twitter.com/MarianneSkolek
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