Siobhan Reynolds (1961-2011), a True American Heroine

Siobhan Reynolds was killed on Saturday, December 24, in a plane crash. Not many people knew her, I’m sure, yet she was a true heroine. She had, however, nothing whatever in common with those who are commonly regarded as heroes, especially the soldiers who slaughter, maim, and bring grief to unoffending people all over the world at the behest of the vile creatures who command the U.S. empire.

Siobhan, to whose life and heroic deeds Radley Balko has paid fitting tribute, sought not to cause pain, as the military “heroes” do, but to alleviate it. She was motivated in the beginning by her husband’s chronic pain and by the entire setup by which the government has made it virtually impossible for millions of people to get the drugs that would relieve their pain. Siobhan formed an advocacy organization, the Pain Relief Network, that dedicated itself to helping these victims of government cruelty and madness. She had some success, and in response the government fought back in the most vicious imaginable way, by abusing the very arrangements and officialdom it has the audacity to call the “justice system.”  These despicable actions caused Siobhan much grief and ultimately led her, at the end of 2010, to disband the organization she had set up. She explained:

The Members of the Board of Directors and I have decided to shut down PRN as an activist organization because pressure from the US Department of Justice has made it impossible for us to function. I have fought back against the attack on me and PRN but have received no redress in the federal courts; so, the board and I have concluded that we simply cannot continue.

Terminating the PRN did not mean, however, that Siobhan has stopped her personal fight against the evil apparatus the government maintains:

It certainly appears that the legal deck is stacked against pain patients and doctors. Despite this, others will keep trying because so very much is at stake. A group of us may bring another action in the Western District of Washington in the near future; but exactly how that will be framed is not yet clear. In any event, the action will not be undertaken under the auspices of PRN.

People in pain are still being abused, neglected, and left to die by the entire system. Physicians brave enough to treat chronic pain continue to be intimidated and prosecuted. It breaks my heart that we have to stop, but there is simply no way forward for PRN.

So, Siobhan continued to fight, in person and in cooperation with hearty collaborators. A gentle woman by nature, she was endowed with deeps springs of hope and an abiding outrage against the wickedness of the government system she opposed.

I never met Siobhan. I became acquainted with her through Facebook, where she would send me kind messages about what she was learning from my books and other reading materials I recommended to her. She had an active, inquiring mind and a gentle heart. And above all, perhaps, she had tremendous courage, the sort of courage so manifestly lacking among those of us who complain and bluster about the government’s evils, but do nothing of any consequence to stop them.

As fate would have it, I sent Siobhan a message on Facebook, in reply to a kind message she had sent me about my work, just two days before she died. In my message, I said, in part:

You have had no way to have known, but you have been one of my heroes (and I have very few) ever since I learned, more or less by chance, about your efforts on behalf of people denied pain relief by the whole congeries of sadistic government laws, functionaries, and activities aimed at keeping them in pain. I have the greatest respect for you and the few others who have the courage to do something concrete to fight the power.

Please accept my very best wishes for a happy Christmas and for better days to come. And please know, too, of the great esteem in which I hold you.

Rest in peace, brave, loving, gentle lady. Oh, that the world had a million more like you.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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