While the documentary Dr. Feelgood shines a sympathetic light on a pain specialist who was incarcerated for caring too much about his patients, don’t be surprised if you start wondering throughout the movie how this dude became a doctor in the first place.
The specialist in question is William Hurwitz, a pain physician known for prescribing large amounts of opioid medication to people with debilitating pain. At first, his unorthodox methods almost got his medical license revoked. (He was held responsible for the deaths of two patients.) Then, as opioids became a major drug epidemic, and a few of his patients become pushers, Hurwitz went to jail for drug-trafficking charges.
Director/producer Eve Marson doesn’t characterize Hurwitz as devious or nefarious. Instead, she presents him as a naïve, way-too-trusting schnook — an even more troubling diagnosis. Even though he was well aware that some of his patients were selling his scripts on the side (his ex-wife told him to wise up after tailing a patient with a suspect limp), Hurwitz continued to give them the benefit of the doubt and prescribe drugs to whoever said they needed them.
As much as Marson makes Hurwitz out to be a misunderstood man of medicine who did do some good (she also talks to former, grateful patients who say his treatments were a godsend), Dr. Feelgood still doesn’t cover up the fact that this guy could have slowed down the opioid-addict craze he inadvertently helped create if he’d just cut off some of his shiftier cases.
Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer?
Directed by Eve Marson
Opens December 30, Cinema Village