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Can a doctor’s mistake lead to criminal manslaughter charges?

| Mar 3, 2021 | Physicians & Physicians Groups |

The New York Attorney General’s office recently announced that a local physician was facing criminal charges in connection to the overdose death of a patient. The prosecution claims the physician prescribed a mix of opioids even though he was aware the patient had struggled with addiction in the past. The criminal charges include:

  • Manslaughter in the Second Degree
  • Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree
  • Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance

These charges also led to allegations of healthcare fraud, as the physician’s office billed Medicare for the prescriptions.

How will the prosecution build its case?

In this matter, the prosecution claims to have witnesses that will testify the accused would provide narcotics on request without completing an examination of patients who appeared to suffer from addiction. The government also states they have evidence the physician prescribed dangerous opioid medications for years at ten times the amount recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

What other impacts will these allegations have the physician’s practice?

The allegations also resulted in an investigation by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct. This led to allegations of professional misconduct.

What are the potential penalties?

For the criminal allegations, the accused faces up to 15 years imprisonment for the top charge alone. If convicted, even upon completion of his sentence it is unlikely he would be able to continue his practice in New York as his license will likely be revoked by the state medical board.

Physicians are wise to use this case as a catalyst to review their prescription practices. They should also use it as a reminder to take any allegations of poor prescription practices seriously, particularly those involving opioids and other controlled substances.

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