As noted in the previous post, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently arrested a NY doctor for criminal sale of prescription medications and homicide. The previous piece discussed the investigation and the criminal sale charges, this post will discuss the homicide charges and potential defenses for physicians that face similar charges.
Accusations escalate: Physician accused of murder
Two of the physician’s patients fatally overdosed on prescribed medications within three days of receiving the prescription for the doctor. The government is using this information to support charges of manslaughter against the physician.
The DEA claims the physician prescribed oxycodone, clonazepam and carisoprodol without first performing a medical check-up to one of the victims. When taken together, these types of prescriptions are known to suppress respiration rates and increase the risk of overdose. The agency states the other victim died as a result of opioid abuse. The DEA claims the physician was aware of the abuse and allege the only adjustment the physician made in his prescribing practices was an increase in dosage.
A special agent in charge of the investigation for the government has stated that the physician had a complete disregard for the practice of medicine and that his actions were “a parent’s worst nightmare and an opioid addict’s dream.”
Potential defenses: Physicians can fight these charges
The government has charged this physician with two counts of Second Degree Manslaughter, nine counts of Reckless Endangerment and 220 counts of Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance.
The government considers many medications that help with pain management controlled substances. As a result, a legitimate physician working to help ease a patient’s pain could find themselves targeted by the DEA for similar accusations.
A physician can build a defense to these accusations. One example noted by the United States National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) involves the use of the medication in question for a legitimate medical purpose. It is wise to gather evidence to establish this requirement. An attorney experienced in these matters can help gather this evidence and explore additional defensive strategies that may be available.