HAYSVILLE About 30 patients of a Haysville physician rallied Friday outside his shuttered clinic to protest his indictment and prosecution for allegedly illegally prescribing medication.
Braving cold temperatures, the doctor's chronic-pain patients huddled together carting homemade signs proclaiming their growing desperation to find physicians willing to treat them.
"Where can I be euthanized," one sign read. "Decriminalize compassion," another said. "Our blood will be on your hands," still another read.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts ordered the clinic to close by Friday after a state hearing officer suspended Dr. Stephen Schneider's medical license.
The doctor and his wife, nurse Linda Schneider, were indicted in December on 34 federal charges, including four charges of unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances resulting in death. The indictment accuses the Haysville couple of directly causing four deaths and contributing to at least 11 others.
The couple, who remain jailed, have vehemently proclaimed their innocence.
"When they took Doctor away, that was a great injustice," said patient Martin Beatty, who led the protest, designed to draw media attention.
The group's message: "That we are patients, that we are not junkies, and that we have the right to live," he said.
Beatty urged them to get involved at future rallies in front of the federal courthouse, to write letters of support for the Schneiders and to tell their stories.
"We have to pull together as patients to fight on our own behalf, and as a result, Doc may benefit as well," Beatty said.
Many signs, including the banner draped across the front of the clinic, were targeted at the lead federal prosecutor in the Schneiders' case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Threadway.
"Walk a mile in our shoes, Tanya," one sign said.
Patient after patient told reporters that dozens of doctors have turned them away after finding out that they were pain patients at the indicted doctor's clinic.
Michael Trask, 43, has been disabled since a gunshot wound injured his spine. He said he has enough medication for two more weeks and has been unable to find another doctor.
Trask said he has been through withdrawal from painkillers before and fears what is ahead for him and the other patients when they cannot obtain prescription drugs to control their chronic pain.
"You start to get very emotional and unstable to the point you are no longer in control," he said as tears filled his eyes. "You begin to kick things, hit things. You are restless, hopeless and have suicidal thoughts. You become violent."
Charlotte Tenant, 52, ran out of pain medication three days ago.
"I've gone to the emergency room once - and they refused to help. Told me to stay on ibuprofen," Tenant said.
It was the same for Kim Ward, 44, who suffers from a degenerative back disease. She said she has called between 20 and 30 physicians' offices, trying to find someone who will accept her as a patient.
"As soon as you mention the (Schneider) clinic, they will not take you. ... We are just blackballed, out and out blackballed," Ward said.