|Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Supporters say Knox cared about patients, families
|"He wants to make sure the family understands what the patient is going through," said a former patient.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
Open heart surgery didn't keep Don Taylor away.
The Elliston man returned to the federal trial of Roanoke pain specialist Cecil Byron Knox and two of his associates at Southwest Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation within a week of his operation.
The Vietnam veteran is one of a handful of Knox supporters who have carpooled to Roanoke, leaned on their canes walking into the courtroom and sat through the trial on cushions they brought from home. Lawyers finished presenting evidence in the case Monday. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today.
The group sees Knox as a Patch Adams, a doctor played by Robin Williams in a movie. Adams is an unconventional doctor who believes in treating people, not just their diseases, according to promotional material for the movie.
Most days, these Knox supporters have spent their lunch hour in the parking lot across from the federal building on Franklin Road. A couple of times they went to a downtown restaurant, but it was too expensive, "and you have to wait an hour for your food," said Ernie Collins, 51, a former Knox patient from Elliston.
Last week, they shared their thoughts on the trial as they tailgated in the back of a 1996 Dodge Ram, eating fried chicken and egg sandwiches packed by Taylor's wife, Linda.
"This is our Tech game," joked Taylor, 54. He was a patient of Knox's from 1990 until Knox's arrest in February 2002.
They described Knox as a doctor who sometimes made house calls and spent all day with a patient. He was a doctor who found a way to get things for his patients if he determined they needed it.
"People just don't know who he is, what he is," Taylor said. "He doesn't want to treat just the patient, he wants to make sure the family understands what the patient is going through."
Billy Estes, who lives in Riner, was never a Knox patient. But four years ago, Estes accompanied Collins to an appointment with Knox.
Estes, 57, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he did not know of any specialists to treat his illness. Knox reached for the phone and made arrangements for a specialist to see Estes. Estes still sees that doctor, four years later.
"He cares about people in general," Estes said. "I wasn't even his patient."
Taylor dismissed the idea that Knox was illegally prescribing painkillers such as OxyContin and methadone to draw more patients into his practice and make more money.
They dismissed the testimony of many of the prosecution witnesses.
"Who do you believe, a prosecution that brings in most of their witnesses in shackles, or someone who comes in with their heart and tells you from their heart what happened and how much he cared," Taylor asked.
And they questioned why federal prosecutors had targeted him at all. They argued that Knox should not be held responsible for his patients' abuse of medications.
Taylor said he thinks it's in part because insurance companies didn't want Knox writing any more prescriptions.
"In my opinion, all of it is because he wore blue jeans, a T-shirt, and long hair," Estes said.
"And he loved to buck the system," Taylor added.