|Thursday, September 18, 2003
|Trial of Roanoke pain specialist postponed today because of weather
Sister: Some saw Dr. Knox as a 'savior'
|During the time her brother was a patient, Tammy Akers testified that her mother and two sisters also became patients of Knox's. Tammy Akers said she questioned both Knox and her family about why they needed pain medication.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
Tracy Akers died mad at his sister and loving Roanoke pain specialist Cecil Byron Knox, Tammy Akers testified in federal court Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors have named Akers as one of eight people who died as a result of what they argue was Knox's prescription of powerful painkillers outside the scope of legitimate medical practice. Tracy Akers was 37 when he died Feb. 22, 2002.
Tammy Akers was one of several family members who testified at the federal trial of Knox and four of his associates Wednesday about the effects that Knox's treatment had on their loved ones. In some cases, patients experienced several overdoses before they finally died from one, according to court testimony.
And in some cases, more than one family member was a patient of Knox's, according to court testimony. And other relatives questioned why they were also receiving prescriptions for powerful painkillers such as OxyContin and methadone.
Tammy Akers testified that when Tracy Akers first became a patient of Dr. Knox's, her family saw him as a godsend.
Tracy Akers had been paralyzed from the neck down after he was shot six times in West Virginia in 1982. He and his sister, Tammy, later became national spokespeople for victims of violent crimes.
But Tracy Akers lived in pain. He tried a variety of doctors, but until Knox, none of them could do anything for him, Tammy Akers testified. Knox prescribed for Tracy Akers OxyContin, methadone, Valium and other medications.
In the beginning, Knox's regimen of care really helped Tracy Akers, his sister testified. Knox would make house calls for Tracy Akers in Vinton, or Akers would visit Knox at his office, sometimes with a gift of moonshine hidden under his colostomy bag.
But in time, he had several episodes where he stopped breathing and almost died from an overdose, Tammy Akers testified.
"I just knew this drug was doing something to my brother," Tammy Akers said of OxyContin.
During the time her brother was a patient, Tammy Akers testified that her mother and her two sisters also became patients of Knox's. Tammy Akers said she questioned both Knox and her family about why they needed pain medication.
Knox told her she was crazy, Tammy Akers testified. Her family rejected her.
"My family was totally against me," Tammy Akers said. "They looked at this man as their savior."
Federal prosecutor Rusty Fitzgerald has called witnesses for the prosecution to bolster the assertion that Knox's victims went beyond the eight people Fitzgerald argues died as a result of Knox's prescriptions. But defense attorneys have argued that there is no ceiling for the amount of opiates that can be prescribed and that Knox cannot be held responsible when his patients abuse the painkillers he has prescribed for them.
Relatives of the late Michael March, who lived in Bedford, also testified Wednesday. His widow, Kristi, testified that her husband went to sleep Jan. 8, 2001, and never woke up. March, who had eight children, was 53 when he died.
Roxanna Earhart, who lives in Speedwell, testified that her husband, Eben, had two near-fatal overdoses in 1999. Scott Dove, a doctor who treated Earhart after his first two overdoses, said that he left messages at Knox's office with his concerns about Earhart's medications and also mailed a medical report to Knox's office and gave Earhart a copy to give Knox. Dove testified that Knox never returned his calls.
Roxanna Earhart testified that she hid her own OxyContin pills, because she was afraid her husband would take them. Eben Earhart was taking more pills than Knox prescribed, she said, and in the last month of his life became a "zombie," she testified. Earhart, 50, eventually suffered a fatal overdose Jan. 10, 2002.
Roxanna Earhart is no longer a patient of Knox's and treats her pain with over - the - counter medication, she testified.
The trial, which is expected to last five more weeks, will not continue today because of Hurricane Isabel. Chief U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson said he had not yet decided whether to continue the trial Friday.