The opioid addiction epidemic gripping the U.S. has led to a heartbreaking number of fatalities, but the ongoing social dilemma went down a new dark avenue last week when an Indiana physician was evidently shot and killed for refusing to write a prescription.
Dr. Todd Graham was seeing appointments at Saint Joseph Rehabilitation Institute, located in Mishawaka, Indiana. He saw Petra Jarvis, a new patient, in the morning. She attended the appointment accompanied by her husband, Michael Jarvis.
Although Petra Jarvis complained of chronic pain, Graham declined to prescribe an opioid. Around two hours later, according to police reports, Michael Jarvis returned to the healthcare facility intent on confronting Graham. Witnesses said the two engaged in a heated argument in the parking lot that concluded with Jarvis pulling out a gun and fatally shooting Graham in the head.
Jarvis fled the scene. Police later found him outside a friend’s home, dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
According to police, Petra Jarvis was entirely unaware of her husband’s plan to confront the physician.
“He did what we ask our doctors to do: Don’t over-prescribe opioids,” said Ken Cotter, a prosecutor for St. Joseph county.
Cotter indicated he sees the incident as a tragic singular occurrence rather than a natural extension of the opioid epidemic. Even so, he acknowledged the circumstances of the murder could be especially chilling for those who work in the healthcare field.
“Doctors should never get shot,” said Cotter. “Doctors are trying to do what they can to help people, and I think that’s what’s so tragic about this. Every homicide is tragic but this one in particular hits home to everyone. Hits home to all of our medical professionals – their job is to try to help people. That’s certainly what Dr. Graham was doing and for whatever reason this man decided that he was going to take Dr. Graham’s life.”
In remembering Graham, several colleagues and patients emphasized his devotion to those under his care.
“He was one of those doctors who actually cared how you’re feeling, always following up, and his door was always open,” former patient Ryley Fitzsimmons told WNDU-TV.