The rights of doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients they know it can help is under threat, according to Chicago lawyer Mike Goldberg. He is representing an Illinois doctor in a legal challenge against the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
The Department is alleging that Dr. Joseph Starkman violated the State's Medical Practice Act because he relied on testing and diagnoses made by specialists instead of carrying out a complete re-examination of a patient referred to him. Goldberg says that would have been contrary to normal medical practices, where family physicians and general practitioners utilize diagnoses and testing done by specialists when co-managing patients.
Goldberg says the IDFPR is using the case against Starkman in hopes of a legal precedent which would discourage other doctors from prescribing medical cannabis to their patients.
A conviction against Starkman would increase patient medical costs by requiring unnecessary testing. It could also increase the possibility of patient harm through repeat testing, such as blood draws, x-rays and other unnecessary screening mechanisms. In most cases, family physicians do not have the necessary equipment or expertise to carry out a re-diagnosis of what a specialist has already diagnosed.
The IDFPR is also engaging in a common legal delay tactic, in the hopes that a drawn out legal battle will force Dr. Starkman to drop his challenge because of increasing legal costs. The Board waited a year before taking its case against Dr. Starkman to the hearing stage and prevented him from practicing cannabis related medicine.
My Compassion, an Illinois based non-profit and one of only four federally recognized medical marijuana related non-profits in the U.S., has launched a gofundme appeal on Dr. Starkman's behalf. The group is made up of patients whose medical conditions have been helped with medical marijuana.
Founder Heidi Parikh says funds raised will be used to defray legal costs in Dr. Starkman's defense.