Alliance for Patient Safety

                            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil...
                                                                ... is for good men to do nothing.

                                                                                                   Edmund Burke

Retaliation Against Physicians - Harvey L. Rose, MD

Sacramento Bee - January 5, 2008
Obituary: Doctor led way for treatment of chronic pain
By Robert D. Dávila -

Dr. Harvey L. Rose, a Carmichael family practitioner who successfully fought state charges of prescribing too many painkillers to become a champion for the rights of patients and physicians to use effective drugs for chronic pain, died Tuesday. He was 75.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Dr. Rose was a leading medical advocate for using prescription drugs – even strong narcotics – to alleviate chronic pain when other forms of treatment fail. He challenged the thinking of many physicians, who often avoid painkillers for fear of patient addiction or being disciplined for over-prescribing drugs.

He was a sympathetic man who cared strongly about patients, his family and colleagues said, and he believed doctors could safely and effectively provide medicines to ease needless suffering and enable patients to lead productive lives.

"He was a pioneer because he was so outspoken about it," said Bill Sandberg, executive director of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society. "He was very tenacious on the whole pain thing and not afraid to prescribe."

His efforts almost cost Dr. Rose his medical license. In 1981, the California Medical Board brought charges accusing him of excessively prescribing pain drugs. He was found guilty, but the verdict was tossed out on appeal because part of the transcript was lost.

The case spurred Dr. Rose to push for legal protections for pain therapy. He helped state Sen. Leroy Greene draft the 1990 Intractable Pain Treatment Act, which shields doctors from discipline for prescribing potentially addictive drugs for serious cases. It was a key early measure in several steps California has taken toward greater pain management, including a 1997 Pain Patient's Bill of Rights. He lobbied for similar laws in Nevada and Oregon and appeared in a national news story on "48 Hours."

Meanwhile, a shift in attitude led the state medical board in 1995 to acknowledge that pain often is undertreated, and relief sometimes requires large drug doses. The same year, Dr. Rose was recognized as one of 10 "Heroes in Health Care" in a program sponsored by the Health Communication Research Institute.

"I don't think his contribution can be overstated," said Dr. Lee Snook, founder and president of Metropolitan Pain Management Consultants Inc. "He embraced the best tenets of being a physician – to listen to patients and do whatever they have to do to alleviate their suffering. Harvey did that, even at his own risk."

Patients nationwide traveled to Dr. Rose for help. Besides his efforts to alleviate pain, he was renowned as a man of compassion, including footing the bill for those who could not afford to pay for prescriptions.

"When people couldn't come to him, he'd go to them," said Tom Greenly, a longtime patient and friend. "He was absolutely committed to taking care of patients with dignity and respect."

Harvey Leon Rose was born in 1932 in Chicago, the only child of working-class, Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who moved to Los Angeles when he was a boy. He earned a bachelor's degree with honors from UCLA in 1954 and graduated third in his class from USC medical school in 1958.

He completed his residency at Sacramento County Hospital and joined the Air Force as a captain in the ROTC program. He spent two years as a medical officer at a U.S. base in Crete, where he befriended locals and made lifelong connections to the Greek community in Sacramento.

"He'd leave the base and go out to the village and hang out," said his daughter Dianna Rose. "He became quite fluent in Greek and learned all the songs and dances."

Dr. Rose returned to Sacramento and joined a medical practice that moved to Carmichael in the 1970s. He also was an assistant clinical professor of family practice at UC Davis School of Medicine. He raised two children with Alice Dow Rose, whom he met at a folk dance and married in 1963. His wife died in 1997.

He spoke five languages and traveled widely in the United States and Europe. He was an outgoing and energetic man who loved folk dancing and singing and "tried to attend every ethnic food festival in town," said his daughter Kari Rose Parsell.

"He said it was like traveling, except that he didn't have to leave home and didn't have to leave his patients."