In 1985, Mr. Charles McCrory was on trial. Charles had found his wife dead, and her family was convinced that he was responsible, despite the fact that Charles denied any involvement and just wanted to grieve in peace. There was no real evidence against him, but the state had an ace up its sleeve in the form of Dr. Richard Souviron.
Dr. Souviron was a forensic odontologist, which is a dentist who has studied criminal acts involving teeth. Usually confined to identifying human remains, Dr. Souviron and several other dentists had found a lucrative side career: identifying bite marks on victims of homicide and matching these to the teeth of suspects. For this, they were paid handsomely.
Bite mark evidence goes back a long way. In 1692, in Salem, the Reverend George Burroughs was accused of witchcraft and of biting his victims during the hexing. His bite marks were compared to supposed marks on the victims and were found to “match.” This was enough evidence for the jury, and he was hanged.
Almost two hundred years later, Dr. Souviron would testify to a jury that bite marks he had found on the victim matched Charles McCrory’s teeth. Hairs found clenched in her fist did not in any way match Mr. McCrory. But the bite mark testimony was so convincing that it was enough, and Charles was sent to prison. His son grew up without him, believing that his father was a murderer.
Since then, bite mark evidence has been thoroughly proven to be junk science by overwhelming empirical evidence obtained through objective testing. Dr. Souviron has withdrawn his conclusions and recanted his testimony. In 2021, two other forensic dentists agreed with the recantation and testified that it had been proven impossible, by empirical testing, for dental experts to match teeth to bite marks accurately. In fact, many of the “bite marks” had been proven to be common bruises or even dyschromia. But none of this helped Mr. McCrory.
The court agreed with the prosecutor that jurors are capable of identifying bite marks and “matching” them to a defendant’s teeth on their own. Something science has proven not even experienced dentists can do accurately.
A red bandana found at the scene happened to match one worn by Alton Ainsworth. Ainsworth would go on to rape and murder another woman five weeks after the first murder. This bandana could have been tested for DNA, but the prosecutor destroyed it after the trial. Later, that same prosecutor was convicted of solicitation to murder and is himself in prison on a 35-year sentence. That also does not help Charles. There is no law saying that you can only be convicted by an honest and noncriminal prosecutor. The Daubert standard requires that an expert conclusion must be the product of “scientific methodology” with falsifiable hypotheses accepted by the scientific community, subject to peer review and publication, but that rule is not enforced in our courts.
And that brings us to physicians. Dr. William Bauer was an 81-year-old neurologist in Sandusky, Ohio. He is now 85-year-old prisoner number 66903-060. Dr. Bauer was convicted by the U.S. federal government using “expert” witness testimony that would not survive scrutiny by any legitimate medical or scientific review board. These experts have made a nice career for themselves. Not by healing the sick and easing the suffering of their patients. But by being a willing “gunslinger” to aid the prosecution of any other physician targeted by the authorities.
They come from a group of medical doctors with extreme opinions regarding opiate medications and the treatment of chronic pain, who the DEA uses to dictate the practice of medicine to all the rest. How extreme are some of these opinions? One doctor said that no female who had suffered abuse as a child should be prescribed an opiate medication. That would sentence about twenty-five million human beings to live in agony for the crime of having been harmed. It would also violate several federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex (he said nothing about men) and the Americans with Disabilities Act, precluding effective medical treatment to an entire sector of the population based on the unscientifically supported opinion of one single little man, paid hundreds or even millions of dollars by the state to convince a jury of medically naïve people that his singular opinion is the “national practice of medicine.” Something that simply does not exist.
There is a standard of care exemplified in our textbooks, which contain the accumulated knowledge of thousands of experts in the field. Not in the “expert” opinion of any one physician. Physicians must have the right to evaluate and treat patients as the incredibly distinct and unique individuals that they are. I have seen a medical expert opine that a silent paging system used to protect the privacy of patients by not screaming out their names was not the “usual” practice of medicine.
And that brings up another point. Every physician who travels and learns a new technique and brings it back to their area is, by definition, not engaging in the “usual” practice of medicine for that area. This is, instead, the exceptional practice of medicine. It is how we improve. Something the courts and juries do not seem to understand.
Medicine is also quite different from state to state. In Oregon, it is legal for a physician to prescribe a controlled medication for the express purpose of ending someone’s life. In Arkansas, the Chronic Intractable Pain Act says that a physician can use dangerous medications in dangerous combinations to treat pain, even if that patient dies, as long as it was not the doctor’s intent to kill the patient. Euthanasia, legal in Oregon is the one thing that the Arkansas Medical Practices Act says a physician can never do. But experts are willing to take the stand, often never having practiced medicine in the state where they are testifying and are willing to say that whatever the accused doctor did was not the “national standard” or the “usual practice” and, therefore, there was no “legitimate reason” to treat the patient with that medication.
How does the state find these medical gunslingers willing to back up even the most scientifically unsound opinions of the prosecutors? These outliers are plucked from obscurity anywhere in the nation where they can be found and promulgated to a jury as “one of the best pain management doctors in America.” The jury, knowing no better, assumes this to be true. If the government’s goal is to put truth ahead of conviction rate, they have failed miserably. If it is their goal to prove that they have the power to dictate the practice of medicine to physicians regardless of the science, they have succeeded masterfully.
This “national” standard shifts from trial to trial, with no two “experts” saying the same thing. How could physicians in one state know that the national standard of medical practice is embodied in the opinion of a hitherto unknown physician practicing in another state who has never been seen in the textbooks or hundreds of hours of CME? The answer is they cannot. All scientists and doctors in this country must stand up with one voice. Otherwise, we have no hope.
Mr. McCory is still in prison. And so is Dr. Bauer. So, for that matter, is Dr. Ruan. Physicians are being sent to prison for practicing medicine according to their education, training, experience, and humanity. And prison is not benign. It’s like being interred in a glass coffin where you can watch life go on for others. But not for you. The family comes to the graveside from time to time to pay their respects to the person they used to know, watching, day by day, as the feelings of bitterness and betrayal twist that person into an unrecognizable husk of a human being. Until finally, one day perhaps, they dig you up and release you back out into the world where, if you dare to rebuild, they do it all over again.
L. Joseph Parker is a distinguished professional with a diverse and accomplished career spanning the fields of science, military service, and medical practice. He currently serves as the chief science officer and operations officer, Advanced Research Concepts LLC, a pioneering company dedicated to propelling humanity into the realms of space exploration. At Advanced Research Concepts LLC, Dr. Parker leads a team of experts committed to developing innovative solutions for the complex challenges of space travel, including space transportation, energy storage, radiation shielding, artificial gravity, and space-related medical issues.