The lengthy DEA investigation of doctor Sylvia Hofstetter
I earlier commented on the case involving doctor Sylvia Hofstetter and, as I explained then, I have no personal knowledge of Dr. Hofstetter or her case, having only read about Dr. Hofstsetter in the media. Nonetheless, any lawyer having any experience defending doctors against drug diversion charges will know that the government’s investigations can be quite thorough, and this is certainly true of the investigation into Dr. Sylvia Hofstetter. By one account, it was described as a “lengthy multi-year investigation” into Dr. Hofstetter’s move from Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee. It was further reported that “there were at least seven overdose deaths” due to controlled drugs prescribed by Dr. Hofstetter’s clinics, and that number does not include “dozens” of other potential deaths, as follows:
“In four years, the FBI said prescriptions for more than 12 million pills were written by Hofstetter’s clinics * * * [and] there were at least seven overdose deaths due entirely to opioid drugs that were prescribed by Hofstetter’s clinics. [The investigator] said seven deaths was a solid estimate because that number does not include dozens of other overdose deaths where other drugs may have been in the victims’ systems.”
The unasked questions
How many deaths could have been prevented had the government concluded its investigation of doctor Sylvia Hofstetter in two years instead of four? It does not appear that the government’s case against Dr. Hofstetter would have been compromised in any way that would have affected the government’s ability to pursue Dr. Hofstetter on criminal grounds after a two-year investigation. Alternatively, how many deaths would have been prevented had the DEA acted quickly after Dr. Hofstetter’s practice standards became suspect, by administratively suspending and then revoking Dr. Hofstetter’s DEA Registration, which would have ended her ability to prescribe controlled drugs all together?
A matter of public policy
These questions are public policy questions only, exploring the tip of the iceberg of social values, priorities, and the allocation of public resources. These questions are not intended to suggest a legal defense.