A local father's three-year campaign of searching for answers and seeking justice in the death of his daughter led him Friday to the steps of the Elk County Courthouse in Ridgway, where he spoke before news cameras and a group of concerned community members who gathered to show support for his cause.
Ridgway resident James Buehler's daughter, Heather Buehler Armanini, died on July 7, 2008 as a result of complications caused by prescription drugs that Buehler said were prescribed to her by an area doctor. Buehler has spent the years since her death unsuccessfully appealing to law enforcement and elected officials for answers and a formal investigation into her death.
Elk County District Attorney Bradley Kraus was previously directly addressed by Buehler in a full-page newspaper ad that appeared in the Aug. 14, 2011 editions of The Daily Press and The Ridgway Record. In that ad, Buehler asked Kraus why he declined to begin an official investigation into Armanini's death and how he intended to deal with prescription drug abuse in Elk County.
In the ad, Buehler said his daughter was prescribed a combination of highly addictive opiates and other drugs containing Tylenol in large doses in the years leading up to her death and an autopsy revealed that his daughter died as a result of liver failure likely caused by acetaminophen toxicity. He said she was prescribed "as much as 180 pills at a time, some with refills totaling into the thousands," by an Elk County physician, and had admitted to her doctor five months before she died that she had a narcotic dependency and was trying to get off narcotic drugs, but continued to receive refills of such prescriptions.
Buehler, along with area attorney Shawn McMahon, organized Friday's press conference in order to draw attention to the issue and hopefully spur legislative and judicial officials to action. Buehler said he has contacted state and local police, D.A. Kraus, the FBI, DEA, his elected officials in both the Pa. Legislature and the U.S. Congress, and Pa. Attorney General Linda L. Kelly. Buehler said he has most recently written Pa. Governor Tom Corbett, who served as the state's most recent attorney general, in hopes that the governor will involve himself on Buehler's behalf.
"Governor Corbett, we plead with you for your intervention for an investigation and for action in the death of my daughter...Should [prescribing physician's name omitted] continue to practice medicine with such careless disregard as was shown to my daughter, I am certain that other patients are at significant risk for serious bodily harm or death," the letter reads. Buehler has requested a response within 15 days of the letter's Nov. 18 postdate. He has also collected 930 signatures of area residents on a petition which he plans to send to the governor.
Buehler said that his petitioning of the governor is somewhat of a last resort, but added that "persistence sometimes pays off" and said he wants to see "an investigation into this case, and for legislation so doctors handing out these drugs are accountable."
Attempts to contact Kraus were unsuccessful as of press time.
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.