Earlier this week, a Fairmont doctor was arrested on charges that she overprescribed oxycodone. But if federal prosecutors follow the recent example of their state counterparts in Florida, the charges could be upped to manslaughter or even murder.
In the oxycodone era, lots of doctors have been led to jail in handcuffs, and lots of overdose deaths have been linked to them. But homicide charges have rarely resulted, because it can be difficult to prove that a doctor’s overprescribing led specifically to a given overdose. Writing a prescription simply isn’t as clearcut as pulling a trigger.
Nevertheless, two different Florida doctors are facing state homicide charges this week — one manslaughter and one first-degree murder — perhaps signaling that some prosecutors are more willing to take the gamble, at least in Florida, where the public is sick of pill mills and overdoses.
And in federal court in West Palm Beach, a lengthy trial is unfolding that involves two doctors who were part of the American Pain organization (the pill mill I’m writing about). In that case, the doctors are charged with nine different counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances resulting in death. It’s not murder, but the charge carries a potential life sentence.
Here’s a DEA-compiled list of doctors who have been prosecuted on various drug charges over the last decade. Only a handful of the 200 or so appear to have been convicted of murder or manslaughter. Maybe that’s about to change.