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Drug-pushing doctor behind three painkiller deaths faces life in prison

Pill mill doctor

(NaturalNews) A physician from the Los Angeles area who was convicted earlier of second-degree murder for handing out prescriptions of painkillers that left three patients dead was sentenced in recent days to 30 years to life in prison in a bellwether case that many in the medical community think will have a chilling effect on all doctors around the country.

A court sentenced Dr. Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, 46, to the long sentence after she said she was sorry to the families of the patients she killed as well as others who became addicted to the drugs she gave them.

"I suffer every day from the impact and I will do everything I can to take responsibility," she said. "I have learned a very hard lesson on this that will stay with me forever."

That said, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli wasn't moved, saying that Tseng gave out prescriptions recklessly even after she had discovered that some of her patients were dying.

"(She's) a person who seemingly did not care about the lives of her patients in this case but rather appeared more concerned about distributing dangerous controlled substances in an assembly line fashion so as to collect payments which amounted to her amassing several million dollars," Lomeli said, as quoted by The Associated Press.

A mother of two children, 8 and 11, she could be more than 70 years old before she would have even a possibility of being released from prison. She had requested a 15-year sentence by the court.

Chilling effect

Part of the reason for the harsh sentence could be due to a dramatic rise of prescription drug abuse, particularly opioid painkillers, in recent years. As The Associated Press reported:

Opioids - primarily prescription painkillers and heroin - were factors in more than 28,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2014, and opioid overdoses have more than quadrupled since 2000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The murder conviction of Tseng has likely sent the message around the country to doctors, the president of the Chicago-based American Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Bill McCarberg, told the AP.

"Prescribers see that and they say to themselves and I say to myself, 'What did she do wrong and could that happen to me?'" McCarberg said.

The ruling could also have a negative effect on patients who might legitimately need prescription painkillers as well, McCarberg added (for some natural painkillers, click here).

"Providers are very hesitant to give any medication for pain, so they'll give a Motrin or an Advil," he said.

Then again, a little more hesitation among physicians probably is not going to be a bad thing, according to Larry Driver, a pain medicine and clinical ethics professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and president of the Texas Pain Society.

"It may be an opportunity to pause and reflect for a moment and think rationally about appropriate care for a patient," Driver told the AP.

Cracking down on 'pill mills'

Both he and McCarberg said they would prefer to see state medical boards do a better job of policing their own rather than see cases elevate to the level of criminal charges.

At Tseng's trial, L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Niedermann told the jury that she had prescribed "crazy, outrageous amounts of medication" to patients who did not need them.

In all, a dozen of her patients died, but she was only charged with three murders because there were other factors involved in the other deaths.

As reported by MedScape, the jury had found Tseng guilty of three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of three young California men: Vu Nguyen, 28; Steven Ogle, 24; and Joseph "Joey" Rovero III, 21.

The Drug Enforcement Agency said that her conviction was the first of its kind, even though prosecutors in other parts of the country have filed similar charges as they move to crack down on so-called "pill mills."






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