FRANK R. THOMPSON
The Philip Eil Story: Poor, Poor, Polarized Dr. Volkman. Philip Eil, freelance writer and adjunct college lecturer in Providence, R.I., has been “researching” the Dr. Paul Volkman case for years.
Volkman was convicted of four deaths that happened between 2003 and 2005. During that time, Volkman ran Ohio clinics in Portsmouth, South Point and Chillicothe. He was sentenced to four life terms for his crimes.
Eil started his investigation for a Columbia University graduate school thesis, and now he is writing a nonfiction book about Dr. Volkman. His father attended college and medical school with Volkman in the 1960s and ‘70s.
I first met Eil when he called me for an interview several years ago, long before Volkman’s trial and conviction. He wanted to know what I knew personally about Volkman and the local effort to end pill mills. Quite frankly, I was suspicious of his motives for “inside information” as he plied so many different Action Team members for evidence. I was extremely cautious about anything I shared with him because of his ties with Dr. Volkman. I wondered if this was a young man bent on making money or a person seeking help for Volkman. Since that time, I have seen Eil several times and informally talked with him about his progress on the book about the Volkman case.
Understanding he continues to write his book, I last left him with my belief that the crime of Rx drug deaths directly linked to pill mills and greedy doctors was perhaps the biggest story of premeditated murder in the history of the country. I believe statistics will prove this belief.
In the June 19 Portsmouth Daily Times, I was rather surprised to see an article written by Philip Eil, a “guest columnist.” After reading the letter, I question Eil’s stance of objective reporting. Let me share some of the column with you to illustrate my point. Eil’s words: “Many southern Ohio citizens, meanwhile, saw it (Volkman’s conviction) as an historic victory in the region’s fight against prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, we, the general public, have not been able to look past these sound bites calling Volkman a ‘scapegoat’ or a ‘dealer of death.’”
As you can see, Eil commits the classic “either-or” fallacy as he judges the general public’s view of Volkman’s conviction. He purposely simplifies the issue to create two distinct camps of thought — one very sympathetic to the doctor. And, he bemoans the fact that we, the public, can’t “look past” an understanding that Volkman was a “dealer of death.” The U.S. District Court in Cincinnati found Volkman was guilty, indeed, of being “a dealer of death” for the overdose murders of four former patients. He is a criminal mass murderer of the worst kind — a medical doctor who preferred lining his huge pockets to protecting the lives of his patients. No one believes Volkman was just an innocent, good-intentioned doctor doing his best to alleviate the chronic pain of his patients. No one believes he cared about any responsibility for illegally distributing opiates. Volkman crossed to the dark side and continued to do his deadly work in spite of the damage he knew he was causing.
Yes, Mr. Eil, Dr. Paul Volkman was a “dealer of death,” a despicable, cold-blooded Josef Mengele of the prescription drug abuse business. Eil calls this a poor view of Volkman — an uncalled “polarized stance” inflamed by an emotionally charged public, and he implies that the people of Portsmouth are guilty of seeing the issue with improper objectivity. He claims we need an antidote to our “polarized stance.” Perhaps, Mr. Eil is currently demonstrating his own subjective, polarized stance in defense of a family friend and a guilty man. He has the right to his opinion.
I can thank Ohio and Miami universities for my masters. I may not be a graduate of Columbia; however, I have devoted the last three years of my life to investigating the impact of Rx drugs on Scioto County. I see my stance against pill mills and dirty doctors as a position that saves needless deaths.
More of Eil’s words: “The mountain of evidence presented to the jury over the course of the nine-week trial — photographs, prescriptions, autopsy reports, emails, and much more — is currently sealed off from public view. A year after the Volkman verdict, yellow “crime scene” tape remains roped around this case, preventing the public from learning what truly happened.” Eil pleads for the evidence in the Volkman trial to be made public, yet he states the following: “Because there are medical records and insurance and tax documents involved, the evidence in this case is admittedly more publication-sensitive than the average drug-dealing or murder case. And, indeed, the latest response I received from the Clerk of the Court of Appeals cited an ongoing Department of Justice “review of the materials” as the reason for the delay.”
Eil claims a year is long enough to seal the evidence of Volkman’s conviction from public view. I believe Eil negates his own argument — “the federal government has shown an interest in publishing exhibits from (other) notable cases even when there is sensitive evidence involved” — with his own words. He admits the pill mill review is “ongoing” and “admittedly more publication sensitive” than similar cases. The likelihood of this case being tied to a wide-spread conspiracy and definite links to other Rx peddling criminals demands thorough investigation. We know this Rx epidemic is not isolated and likely involves many schemes and players yet to be brought to justice.
The ongoing review of the materials by the Department of Justice will likely overturn some rocks where venomous snakes have hidden from prosecution. Continuing with Eil’s words: “Many people in Portsmouth — whether they enjoy speaking with me or see me as the annoying kid who asks a lot of questions — have become familiar with my face. In the course of my research, I have seen first-hand what a pain management doctor at the University of Kentucky told me in 2010: That the subjects of pain, addiction, and opiate medications trigger emotional reactions beyond most medical issues. “’I equate it to abortion,’ he said. ‘You get people taking these polarized stances.’”
I hope Eil gets every opportunity to experience first-hand the “emotional reactions” of those people who have been consumed by the pain of opiate addiction caused by the criminal pain clinic doctors – the medical “professionals” responsible for recklessly distributing destruction and death to their patients and ultimately to their patients’ families and friends. In fact, everyone should be witness to the reality of the prescription epidemic.
I am affronted by Eil’s comparison of the health epidemic to simply “emotional reactions beyond most medical issues.” Mr. Eil, the pain we have experienced in Scioto County is a “medical issue” only in the sense that deadly over-distribution, lack of vital medical supervision, and professional indifference to addiction brings millions of dollars to these killers’ pockets. I dare you, Philip, to stare into the eyes of a parent who has lost a child to the greedy business of pill mills and feel you can intellectualize their loss. To be honest, I am very disturbed that you would write such a statement in our local paper. Never confuse murder with “polarized emotional reactions” of people in my county.
Also, your friend’s analogy with abortion is ridiculous. Pill mills and abortion clinics are two distinct operations. I am not going to discuss right to life and woman’s choice beliefs in this post because of the irrelevance of these issues to criminal pill mill enterprises. Needless to say, you obviously do not want anyone to take what you call a “polarized view” on abortion. You feel quite confident that doing so is an overreaction and an unjustified emotional response. Good luck on that stand, Mr. Eil. I know many who will defend their abortion beliefs with their lives.
Philip Eil, you end your article by saying “you come to this story with nothing more than curiosity.” I am beginning to understand your motive for curiosity. With profit and family ties in the balance, can you objectively judge what has happened to Dr. Paul Volkman? Many here have told you the truth and you still question your findings. As you continue your search in open-minded neutrality, you may want to re-evaluate the minds of the Appalachian folks. We know pill mills; we know Dr. Volkman; and we can distinguish the difference between your slanted, patronizing views and the truth.
Frank R. Thompson of Portsmouth is a retired Valley High School teacher, founder of the Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse Facebook group, a member of Scioto County Drug Action Team, SOLACE board and the Garrett Maloney Foundation.