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Dr. Feelgood

The story of Dr. William Hurwitz — a preeminent pain specialist sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking¬†— provides a window into the ethical dilemma of opioid prescriptions. Painkillers give doctors tremendous power to relieve pain, a primary goal of any physician. But this power begets trouble when the same drugs can lead to addiction, abuse and death.

In 2004 Dr. William Hurwitz was convicted of over 50 counts of narcotics distribution and handed a 25-year prison sentence. DR. FEELGOOD traces Dr. Hurwitz's trial and eventual appeal, detailing the events that led to his arrest.

Testimonies from the witnesses in Dr. Hurwitz's case contradict one another - some revere him, while others condemn him. Taken together, their accounts reveal a profile of a compassionate yet flawed doctor. The film, in telling his story, underscores the tension between every patient's right to pain relief and the lawful need for drug control. There could not be a more critical time to spark discussion on the topic, and call for careful thought and action.

'Illustrates the real challenges that communities continue to face in terms of addiction...Dr. Hurwitz's methods and outcomes have raised many legitimate concerns, but the challenge still remains: How can we develop prescribing policies that ensure appropriate access while at the same time prevent abuse? This documentary can help advance discussion on these important challenges.' Dr. Stephen J. Ziegler, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

'Engrossing documentary...Dr Feelgood examines the case of Dr Hurwitz with great balance.' Martin Billheimer, Counterpunch

'As millions of Americans continue to struggle with opioid addiction and overdose deaths continue to rise, this film will be useful for initiating lively classroom and community discussions and debates about medical ethics and physician compassion and responsibility and the boundaries between treating and policing patients. The film will also raise important questions about why we continue to lack safe and effective treatments for chronic pain and why pharmaceutical companies get away with misleading marketing practices.' Dr. Shannon M. Monnat, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, Demography, and Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University

'Thought-provoking.' Candace Smith, Booklist

'The film underscores the tension between a patient's right to pain relief and the lawful need for drug control.' Karen Garloch, The Charlotte Observer

'Dr. Feelgood succeeds in showing how opioid analgesics can give some pain patients their life back, while taking it away from others. It's also a timely reminder of the role that physicians played in creating the epidemic of opioid addiction, and how important they are in curbing the problem.' Dr. Khary Rigg, Assistant Professor of Mental Health Law and Policy, University of South Florida

'Marson shows viewers several sides of the controversial topic...The multiple perspectives reveal that there are no easy answers to this complex issue.' This Week In New York

'Dr. Feelgood is a documentary that will challenge the trust we have in medicine...The film exposes critical drivers that have enabled legal, doctor-prescribed, therapeutical treatments to become the number one cause of preventable deaths in the US. The lines between medical practice and drug dealing are so blurred - the ability to distinguish the two after viewing this documentary is nearly impossible.' Dr. Sheryl Strasser, Associate Professor of Public Health, Georgia State University

'Provocative...Raises important and substantial questions about an issue that has only become increasingly relevant in recent years.' Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

'Engrossing...Marson's lively narrative...tell[s] a story that's ethically complex yet easy to follow.' Dennis Harvey, Variety

'Thought-provoking...The documentary is an important addition to the current discussion about the opioid epidemic.' Annika Andersson, Huffington Post

'Remarkably evenhanded...This documentary effectively illustrates that the issues are not as clear-cut as they might seem once the argument moves from the abstract to the personal. Recommended.' Video Librarian

'A sad and conflicting story of a brilliant and unconventional physician...Recommended for upper level high school through college.' Ellen R. Paterson, Science Books and Films

'Balanced...An excellent film to screen for a moderated discussion afterward...A good addition to curricula and public health collections dealing with pain and/or addiction issues.' John Clark, School Library Journal


Main credits

Marson, Eve (film director)
Marson, Eve (film producer)
Marson, Eve (screenwriter)
Block, Alison (film producer)
Poore, Timothy (film producer)
Goldblatt, Sara (film producer)
Goldblatt, Sara (screenwriter)
Boodell, David (screenwriter)
Monroe, Mark (screenwriter)

Other credits

Music, Jacob Yoffee; director of photography, Jeff Bierman; editors, Adam Bolt, Michael X. Flores, Andrew McAllister, Avner Shiloah.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Criminal Justice
Pain Management
Social Psychology


William Hurwitz, opioid prescriptions, pain specialist, drug trafficking, ethical dilemma, addiction, abuse, death, narcotics distribution, right to pain relief, need for drug control, painkillers, oxycontin, history of opium, morphine, opiates, narcomania, opioid phobia, drug addiction, prostitution, Dr. Russell Portenoy, titration, suicide, chronic pain, quantifying pain, multiple sclerosis, DEA, pharmacy, Virginia Medical Board, Ed Bradley, 60 Minutes, war on drugs, drug epidemic, hillbilly heroin, pharmacy robberies, Operation Cotton Candy, Prince William County, valium, Gimpel the Fool, Isaac Bashevis Singer, drug trafficking, painkiller overdose, retrial, Charles Barnhart, Laura Cooper, Gabriela Hurwitz, Dr. Anna Lembke, Bret McCarter, Paul Nye, Ken Pedigo, Nilse Quercia, Lawrence Robbins, Molly Shaw, Dr. Hal Talley, John Tierney, Georgia Tsournounis, Aaron Weeter, Anne Wierbinski, Michaelina Woodson; "Dr. Feelgood"; Bullfrog Films