Despite pleading for her freedom this week, Williamson resident Dr. Diane Shafer, 60, was sentenced to six months in prison for operating a pill mill. But not just any pill mill, Shafer’s was deemed one of the most prolific in the state. According to court documents, Shafer was investigated by the state police and FBI after numerous complaints.
At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver spoke of the “scourge of drugs in our region.”
He’s more than right. Families have been torn apart. Children left parentless. Grandparents who should be in the twilight of their lives, have been caring for a second and sometimes third generation of children. Violent crimes, shoplifting, robberies and home invasions have been on the increase.
Our local police departments have been over-run with drug-related crimes to the point of exhaustion.
We know Dr. Shafer isn’t a “bad” person. She has been an active member of the community. Months before her sentencing she was still a member of the Williamson Rotary Club and a CPR instructor for the Red Cross. She has volunteered her time with these organizations for a number of years.
But somewhere along the line, this once-respectable doctor succumbed to the oldest of evils, greed. Clearly she wasn’t thinking it was in her patients’ best interests to be prescribed un-godly amounts of prescription pills. Perhaps she was oblivious to the horrors those pills have caused in these hills. But we doubt it.
Six months in prison and $5,000 in fines? That’s about the lightest of sentences we can imagine.
We don’t know, but we can’t imagine the judge even considered the number of overdose deaths that could have resulted in her clear negligence. Over an 8-year period, Shafer wrote 118,445 controlled substance prescriptions. That’s more than what four pain-management doctor’s in Charleston wrote … combined.
Shafer pleaded guility in May to a conspiracy charge. She also surrendered her physician’s license and was “cooperating” with prosecutors. Maybe that’s why her sentence was so light, but regardless of her “true remorse”, we can’t believe that sends the right message. Look around, prescription pill abuse is a major problem and one that isn’t ending soon.
Ultimately it comes down to a person’s morale compass. Shafer knew what she was doing wasn’t right, but instead of opening her eyes and seeing the damage prescription pills are causing across Mingo County and our state, she closed her eyes and saw dollar signs.