Tuesday, January 3, 2023
A Pre-Ruan Dispute That Appears To Have Fizzled
Back in October, I noted that several legal questions remained open in the wake of the Supreme Court's historic consolidated decision in Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States. I wrote that one such question was whether the government must prove that a physician-Defendant had no legitimate medical purpose for his/her prescription and that he/she was operating outside the usual course of his/her medical practice or whether it only need prove one of these two factors. It appears that I was wrong on that score. I'm aware of only one district court jury instruction in the post-Ruan world that allows the government to meet its burden by proving "no legitimate medical purpose" or "operating outside the course/scope of a medical practice." The issue was of paramount importance pre-Ruan, because several circuits had long held that the "outside the course/scope" prong was based on an objective standard of what a reasonable practitioner was required to do, irrespective of intent. If the government only had to prove one of two prongs, "no legitimate medical purpose" or "outside the course/scope," and one of those two prongs did not require proof of intent, it placed defendants at an enormous disadvantage and allowed the government to secure convictions without proving scienter. Those days are gone now, since the Court made it crystal clear that the Constitution requires the government to prove knowledge or intent on the part of the doctor that he or she was prescribing/dispensing drugs in an unauthorized manner. The formulation being most often used, taken from a passage in Ruan/Kahn which parroted the appropriate federal regulation, is that a health care professional acts in an authorized manner when he or she acts in the "usual course of professional practice for a legitimate medical purpose." Juries are not being told, except in one case, that proof of either/or will suffice. And that case resulted in an acquittal. Of course there is ample time for one of the circuits to screw things up.