Doctor Accused Of Murder For Prescriptions That Led To Overdoses

The Los Angeles District Attorney revealed that a California doctor faces murder charges for allegedly pushing unneeded prescription drugs to patients, three of whom died of overdoses in 2009. She also faces 21 felony counts of writing fraudulent, purposeless prescriptions. Authorities says she prescribed tens of thousands of unneeded prescriptions to various patients, including methadone, Xanax, oxycodone to patients.

According to the AP, the Drug Enforcement Authority and California Medical Board had their eyes on the doctor after pharmacies raised questions about her prescription practices in 2008. She lost her license to prescribe drugs in 2010.

Doctors rarely face murder charges in prescription-based cases because prosecutors have to prove that the doctor knew there was no medical purpose for the prescriptions. Even if the murder charges don’t stick, the fact that authorities are pushing for such charges may cause over-prescribing doctors to reconsider their ways.

Prosecutor calls Calif. woman ‘Dr. Feelgood’ in announcing murder charges in overdose deaths [AP via The Washington Post]

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  1. Vox Republica says:

    Even if this doctor was a medication pusher, and even as opiates and benzodiazepines are exceptionally addictive and ripe for overdose, a murder charge seems excessive. It certainly would qualify as medical malpractice, particularly if the doctor kept contemporaneous prescription records that showed improper changes in dosage or medications (like a sudden jump from hydrocodone to oxycodone, or starting somebody out on morphine sulfate when they would probably be stable on lesser opiates). But murder? That implies intent. Unless we’re dealing with the craftiest of serial killers…

    • msbask says:

      Next week on Law & Order. . . . . . . .

    • nbs2 says:

      Maybe you don’t have enough for murder one (or whatever CA’s equivalent is), but you may have enough to show a reckless disregard for human life. You throw everything reasonable that you can, in the hopes that the right thing sticks, especially if their brain is willing to do the hard part and evaluate intent. Hoefully the charge is enough to get her to plea to man one (which should be the charge) and you move on.

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      Negligent Homicide seems more appropriate.

  2. Captain Spock says:

    I think the issue is that people implicitly trust their doctors, and will take what they are told to take (not me, do not care for prescription drugs)

    perhaps this was some kind of insurance fraud? Perhaps manslaughter would be more appropriate unless they can prove motive…

    Also, Consumerist Blog Owner, I write nice posts, when will I get actual posting permission?

  3. Tangurena says:

    Generally, the only time doctors get prosecuted for prescribing is when they prescribe too many pain meds. And there are no regulations or laws saying what “too many” is, so it all boils down to fear tactics to threaten other doctors with. This leads to doctors refusing to prescribe for pain. When I lived in Florida, the doctors that were all targeted were ones running pain clinics. Soft tissue injuries don’t show up on xrays nor on MRIs, so it becomes a matter of trust that the patient has the problems they say they have.

  4. DonnieZ says:

    News flash.. Michael Jackson passed away a few years ago, and his doctor’s case is long over with.

  5. NoFriggingWay says:

    This is every pain clinics Doctor’s worse nightmare. I am a chronic pain patient. My Doctor had to write a huge report before writing me for a opiate prescription because she was not trying a nerve block first. She had to pull the latest Mri, measure the thickness of scar tissue, and explain how the scar tissue was so thick the needle would not pierce it to reach the spinal canal.

    Once she dotted all her I’s and Crossed all her T’s , she said she would be okay writing for one.

    I am drug tested randomly through out the year and have signed a pain contract promising not to seek pain medication from other sources. Doing so can cause me to lose my pain management services. While recently in the ER due to a accidental Injury, I had to refuse IV Pain medication because of my contract. The ER Doctor explained that my contract would be intact as long as I did not accept a prescription and fill it.

    This is the safe guards put in place because people think its okay to abuse prescription pills. I have had acquaintances come right out and ask me can they Borrow a couple pills. When I explain that I have only enough pills for one month, they promise to pay me back. How exactly are you going to pay me back the exact medication and dose? Oh no I get such and such, but its about the same thing. No , its not. They always seem surprised when I cut off all contact with them.

    As to the murder charge on this Doctor. Gun Store owners are not charged with murder when someone buys a gun and then commits a murder or suicide. So why is she being targeted? Honestly, I think we should make these things easier to get. Let all the pill heads have as many as they want. Put a $5 per pill tax on them unless you have a verified condition. Then in 6 months when 10% of our population is dead from over dosing, we will have reduced violent crime by 50% , Paid off our deficit and gotten rid of a huge drain on the medical system. Everyone wins!

    If these people were stupid enough to abuse prescription drugs. I say its suicide.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Your gun store analogy rings hollow as your comparing apples and oranges, unless somehow the gunstore own knowns when he is selling the weapon that’s the reason for the purchase was to use it illegally.

      Now a better question would be, how many street dealers are charged with murder if the person they sell their drugs to overdose on them?

      As for legalizing them to kill off the abusers, you obviously haven’t thought this through since even if increased availability results in more abusers overdosing for every every person who dies of a drug overdose hundreds, if not thousands, will live and end up in ERs running up large medical bills, most of which will either be paid by medicaid, medicare or be complete unreimbursed.

      • NoFriggingWay says:

        Theoretically that’s where the $5 tax per pill would come in. To help cover the medical bills.
        But Yeah your right. The plan is seriously flawed.
        These pill heads drive me nuts though, cause they make it so hard for legitimate patients to get help. I wasnt diagnosed for 3 years because the Doctor thought I was a seeker. Who knew, I had Cauda Equina Syndrome.

      • NoFriggingWay says:

        And you made a very good point about street dealers being charged. Running Drugs , is what a 5-10 year sentence? But Murder is 25+ years. I have heard some countries have a death penalty for drug dealers. Where is that Thailand? They have the right idea.

  6. StarKillerX says:

    I’m torn on this, on the onehand if a Dr is giving away prescriptions like lollypops they surely should have their licenses revoked, but not sure about murder charges, unless the doctor administered them personally, or their directions caused, the overdose itself.

  7. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Stories like this are why I read The Murderist.

  8. cspschofield says:

    My gut reaction to this story is that it is another case of some sonofabitch prosecutor polishing up his Drug Warrior creds at the expense of a doctor who was ready to give pain meds to people with chronic pain. This is barbarous, and happens entirely too often. Every Prosecutor, DEA agent, etc that lends themselves to this kind of witch hunt should have both their kneecaps shattered, and denied anything stronger than OTC for the rest of their miserable lives.

    At this point, I no longer CARE about idiots taking prescription meds for ‘fun’. The entire War On Drugs is a fraud, perpetrated to keep LEO budgets up, and to allow tiny pricks to feel Macho. It needs to end.

  9. framitz says:

    MURDER is the appropriate charge.

    I have two relatives that were severely damaged by this type of BS.
    An aunt ended up in hospital from toxic effects, she passed before her time because of complications.

    Cousin was incapacitated for years due to the same type of abuse on the Dr. part. We figured out what was happening and got her off the un-needed meds, and found a good doctor, but she’s not the same. The damage is permanent.

  10. CubeRat says:

    FYI, this lady is a GP and most of the scripts were written to people in their 20s, who traveled long distance to get them. I agree with the charges. The reason we are seeing the charges is because of Michael Jackson’s death and the successful prosecution of Dr. Conrad Murray. Hopefully, with a few of these successful prosecutions, there will be a decrease in doctors handing out perscriptions like candy. There is A LOT of money made off these pain meds, and if doctors can perscribe them without major consequences, they will continue.

    Here is the LA Times write-up.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-drug-doctor-20120302,0,5372734.story

  11. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    my mom just told me about this
    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-12-01/news/os-cvs-oxycodone-prescriptions-20111201_1_florida-pain-mladen-antolic-cvs-head
    article the other day [local to her/where i grew up] because it’s apparently a huge epidemic there for doctors writing negligent painkiller prescriptions for anyone and everyone

    i was unable to get the surgeon who did my biopsy today to write a prescription to have aleve or tylenol compounded into a liquid [i can't digest pills] because he didn’t want to write anything at all for pain if he could avoid it, even stuff i could get over the counter if i could take it in the available form. i’ve seen it several times – couldn’t even get anything for a broken rib a few years ago. it’s like a spreading paranoia because doctors don’t want to be associated with the overprescribers

  12. Halfabee says:

    I once had an intern who was disgusted with his father (a GP doctor) for accepting dinners, liquor, vacations, and other personal gifts from numerous pharmaceutical rep “friends”. Not coincidentally, his father had a reputation as one of the biggest pill pushers in the area and patients throughout the region sought him out.