Area father seeks justice in daughter's drug-related death

RIDGWAY - Three years after the death of his 30-year-old daughter to prescription drug-related complications, a Ridgway man lobbying for stricter regulations on the prescription of controlled drugs, as well as greater accountability and oversight on the part of medical personnel, is now appealing to Gov. Tom Corbett in hopes that he take up the cause. Since the death of his daughter on July 7, 2008, James Buehler of Ridgway has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade various law enforcement groups and government officials to convene an investigation of her death. He said he has contacted Elk County District Attorney Bradley Kraus, the Pa. State Police, Attorney General Linda L. Kelly, area legislators and others, but all have declined to launch such an investigation. In an effort to draw attention to the issue and what he considers his daughter's wrongful death, Buehler will be holding a press conference in front of the Elk County Courthouse at noon on Friday. He plans to send a petition with 930 signatures he has collected from Elk County residents in support of his efforts to Corbett, the state's former Attorney General. In a full-page newspaper ad that previously appeared in The Daily Press and The Ridgway Record, and in a subsequent press release to those publications this week, Buehler said his daughter, Heather Buehler Armanini, was prescribed a combination of highly addictive opiates and other drugs containing Tylenol in large doses in the years leading up to her death. He said the 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."Heather's liver enzymes were never monitored by simple blood tests even though she repeatedly went to the doctor complaining of pain in her upper right stomach. The doctors just gave her more drugs containing Tylenol," Buehler said in the letter. Also in the ad, which appeared on Aug. 14, 2011, in response to an article in a statement from Kraus concerning a rise in prescription drug abuse in Elk county, Buehler took asked why Kraus had declined to investigate his daughter's death and how he intended to the "prescription drug problem" in Elk County. Buehler said he feels that his daughter's death might have been prevented if doctors had taken greater care to monitor in her time as a patient. He said with the prescription of controlled drugs for those with a high potential or risk for abuse, pharmacists are required to report prescriptions like those and submit the information to a company which monitors and identifies patients being prescribed multiple addictive substances simultaneously, opiates, and/or large quantities of addictive substances on a daily basis. Buehler said that the doctor prescribing his daughter received 19 notices from pharmacists who believed that she was being overprescribed, but said "the prescribing of drugs continued." Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.