A New York City physician has been sentenced to 10⅔ to 20 years in prison. He was convicted of manslaughter in connection with the death of two of his patients, both of whom had overdosed on prescription pain medications. While the case of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, stands as a notable exception, it is not often that one hears a report of a doctor being convicted of manslaughter in an overdose case. In fact, some observers say this is the first such instance in New York.
According to news reports, Dr. Stan Li, a pain management doctor and anesthesiologist, ran a weekend pain management clinic in Queens, where he would see as many as 90 patients per day. During the week, he worked as a hospital anesthesiologist. In addition to manslaughter, Li was also convicted of reckless endangerment and other charges.
In a related story, you may recall the case of David Laffer, who was found guilty of robbing a Long Island pharmacy in a search for pain pills, and, in the process, shooting and killing two employees and two customers. Laffer is serving a life sentence. Li was also found guilty of selling prescriptions to Laffer.
We expect to see more cases of this type, that is, the prosecution of doctors for overprescribing pain medications such as oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and others. Although the case of Dr. Li may appear to be a “no-brainer” (he was selling prescriptions on a massive scale), a determination of fault (or of guilt) may not always so easy. Among other issues, it is not unusual for some patients to engage in doctor shopping, and their ability to obtain large amount of pain medication may involve lying to their doctors, and obtaining multiple prescriptions. In such as case, unless a pharmacy picks up on the issue, the doctor may not to be in a position to know that his prescriptions are being misused.
Be that as it may, the case of Dr. Li points out the significance of the prescription drug problem, which exists throughout the country. Prescription drug abuse has been classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an epidemic. And overprescribing is a component of that problem.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
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