A New York pain doctor is facing five counts of second-degree murder and six counts of reckless endangerment after ignoring repeated warnings to stop prescribing opioids in such high doses. Authorities say that five of his patients OD’d on their prescriptions and several more were in danger of doing the same. All of his patients developed addictions. The deaths occurred between 2016 and 2018.
The doctor was warned by patients, family members, and insurance companies that the prescriptions he was writing were “massive”. If convicted, the doctor could face 25 years to life on each murder charge.
Prosecutors are going hard with their allegations against the doctor saying that his prescription pad was as dangerous as any murder weapon and that he showed complete indifference to the suffering he was causing. They say he disregarded the law and his ethical obligations as a doctor. If successful, the doctor will spend the rest of his life behind bars with individuals also convicted of murder.
The prosecution is allowed under a New York State law that allows second-degree murder prosecutions in cases where a suspect shows a profound indifference to human life. In other words, it is a black-heart rule. Authorities claim the doctor had no specialized training in pain management and often wrote prescriptions from his car, if he saw patients in person at all. This is the first prosecution under New York State’s black-heart rule.
Analyzing the allegations
Let’s strip the emotion from the situation for a second and look at what the doctor is accused of specifically. He is accused of operating a haphazard medical practice that facilitated opioid addicts with opioids. He did not care for these patients or operate under any basic standard of care required by the medical profession. He simply exchanged the prescriptions for money without determining the patient history or any other factors that a real doctor would have. As a result of his choices, five people died. Even as insurers and family members pleaded with him to reconsider what he was doing, he continued to dispense the opioids. Family members of the victims will provide prosecutors with much of the testimony they present against the doctor at trial.
It’s fair to ask whether or not the new standard for opioid prosecutions will impact this defendant’s case. The answer is “not very likely”. The new standard forces prosecutors to prove that the prescriber knew that the prescription was unlawful at the time it was written. In other words, doctors can make a “good faith” argument to defeat the allegations. However, if you’re not seeing patients, following up with them, performing blood tests, and ensuring they are taking the meds properly, then you are not applying the prevailing standard of care, or any standard of care for that matter. Nor are you operating in good faith.
Talk to a Medical Fraud and Opioid Defense Lawyer Today
Trombley & Hanes defend doctors from allegations related to professional misconduct and opioid prescriptions. Call our Tampa criminal lawyers today to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help.