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New Precedent of Finding Doctors Criminally Liable for Overprescribing Dangerous Drugs

Doctors in our society are asked to take the Hippocratic Oath upon confirmation of their degree. The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to affirm that they will act in ways that will benefit and cure the sick, that they will respect the life of human beings, and in addition to the oath, that they will follow the “Do No Harm” principle. Doctors are generally given leeway with regards to their liability as we want to encourage doctors to perform measures that they believe will be life-saving or curative. Where doctors make mistakes, there are usually only monetary damages that are provided to the individual, the family, or the estate of the individual harmed by the doctor’s actions. However, there has been a movement to put doctors on the stand and convict them for actions that society has deemed to be criminal, so doctors are seeing an increased number of cases brought against them in criminal court.

California Doctor, in First Case in the U.S., Sentenced to 30 years to Life

The recent push has placed criminal liability on doctors for over-prescribing dangerous and addictive medications to patients who later overdose on the drugs. In November 2015, the criminal justice system in the United States saw its first over-prescribing case where a California doctor was charged and convicted for second degree murder in the deaths of three of her patients. She was sentenced to state prison for a period of 30 years to life for her involvement in the deaths of her young patients. One of her patients died at her clinic at her feet after the drugs were administered; all of her patients were between the ages of 21 and 28. The young, addicted patients traveled 2 hours or more to access the prescriptions, they paid in cash, and the doctor prescribed them the drugs with little to no medical examinations that would affirm their need for the prescriptions in the first place.

While this case was the first of its kind where a physician was found criminally liable for the deaths of her patients by over-prescription, this is not the first time a physician has acted as a drug dealer for addicted clients willing to pay cash. The doctor’s lawyer, however, made the case that the doctor became overwhelmed from the pressure placed on her by her addicted and manipulative patients doing whatever they could to access the drugs.

Justice Department Cracking Down on Doctors Turned Drug Dealers

The Justice Department has made it its mission to crack down on doctors serving as drug dealers by recently arresting 280 people involved in a prescription drug scam. The scam involved the prescription and dispensing of painkillers and other opiate-based, addictive drugs to the masses throughout Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Of those arrested, 22 were doctors and pharmacists.

Florida Sentenced Doctor to 25 Years for Over-prescribing

Since the sentencing of the California doctor in November 2015, Florida recently saw its first case in January 2016, where a West Delray doctor was convicted and sentenced on 55 drug trafficking counts for prescribing oxycodone pain pills for patients. He was sentenced to 25 years in state prison and fined up to $3 million. The 25-year sentence is considered especially lenient as the state’s sentencing guidelines would have the doctor incarcerated for 157 years. The doctor, however, will still face charges for two manslaughter deaths, as two of his patients overdosed on methadone that he had prescribed to them.

According to court documents, the doctor’s conviction was based on the fact that he prescribed over 20,000 oxycodone pills over a 10-month period to just one patient. Evidence was found that even suggested that the doctor prescribed 80,350 oxycodone pills over a three-month period. The doctor’s attorney stated that the doctor prescribed these prescriptions in good faith, as his patients had high levels of pain, and the prescriptions were no longer having the same effect at more traditional doses. The prosecution countered by stating that there were other methods that the doctor could have taken in order to combat the pain instead of prescribing lethal doses of dangerous drugs to addicted patients.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Being a doctor is becoming more and more complicated in our society. If you or a loved one has been arrested for any alleged criminal activity associated with the practice of medicine, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can advocate on your behalf. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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