Dr convicted of murder by over-prescription

2015-10-31 11:35


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Los Angeles - A Southern California doctor has been found guilty of murder for over-prescribing drugs that caused the fatal overdose of three patients, in a landmark verdict prosecutors called the first such conviction in the United States.

The case comes amid what public health officials describe as a national epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last year the trend was fueling nearly 17 000 overdose deaths annually, as well as a rise in heroin addiction.

Maximum penalty

A Los Angeles county superior court jury deliberated nine days before convicting Dr. Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng, 45, an osteopath who specialised in internal medicine, of three counts of second-degree murder.

She also was found guilty of 19 counts of unlawfully prescribing controlled substance and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

Tseng, who has remained in custody since March 2012, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when she returns to court on December 14 for sentencing.

Criminally prosecuting physicians for patients' deaths is relatively rare, with one notable case being the 2011 involuntary manslaughter conviction of Dr. Conrad Murray for giving pop star Michael Jackson a fatal dose of a surgical anaesthetic to help him sleep.

Wealthy immigrants

Prosecutors said the verdict in Tseng's case, capping a six-week trial, marked the first time in which a US doctor was found guilty of murder for over-prescribing drugs.

Licensed to practice in 1997, Tseng opened a storefront medical office in 2005 in Rowland Heights, a hillside community east of Los Angeles that is home to many upper-middle-class and wealthy immigrants from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

At the trial, prosecutors pointed to nine overdose deaths associated with Tseng's practice in less than three years, during which they said she had made $5 million from her clinic, dispensing potent, addictive medications to people who did not need them.

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