Woman at center of diluted drugs lawsuit forgave doctor before she died

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Georgia Marie Hayes died last week at the age of 49 of complications from cancer.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The woman whose lawsuit was used to secure a civil judgment against drug-diluting pharmacist Robert R. Courtney forgave him before her death, her husband said.

Courtney was sentenced in 2002 to 30 years in prison in a drug-dilution scheme that potentially touched 400 doctors, 4,200 patients and 98,000 prescriptions.

The case of Georgia Marie Hayes, who died last week at the age of 49 of complications from cancer, was the only one of more than 500 lawsuits filed against Courtney to go to trial. In October 2002, Hayes won a symbolic civil victory when a Jackson County jury ordered Courtney to pay her $2.225 billion. The award was later reduced to $330.1 million.

At the time of the civil judgment, Courtney was serving his prison sentence and had given his personal assets to a federal victims restitution fund.

In a letter written to Courtney about three years ago, Hayes offered her forgiveness.

"She told him: 'I don't condone what you did, but I can't go to my grave with hate or ill feelings on my mind. Therefore, I totally forgive you for your actions,'" her husband, Donald Hayes, recalled Friday.

Donald Hayes said his wife detested the attention that came with her civil case. But it allowed her to inspire and influence many others, he said.

"There was not a doubt in my mind that the good Lord left her on Earth, in the condition she was in, to show how to handle pain and adversity in a classy manner, with dignity and with a smile on your face," he said. "You can't imagine the number of people she has impacted. I've probably heard that a hundred times in the last few days."

Hayes began planning her funeral, which was Thursday in Harrisonville, about the time she wrote the letter to Courtney. Her favorite song, "I Hope You Dance," was played at the service.

The song summed up Hayes' legacy, her husband said.

"No matter how bad things get, you can always be concerned for others, not feel sorry for yourself, live life to fullest, and as she said, 'When I'm gone, I hope you dance,"' he said.

The family requested that memorial contributions be made to the building fund of Cornerstone Community Church in Harrisonville or to Crossroads Hospice.

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