Physician Convicted of Patient’s Drug Overdose Gets 30 Years to Life

MARCH 22, 2016

A California doctor was handed 30 years to life in the death of three patients who overdosed and died. The overdoses happened when the three adults abused prescription medication while away from the doctor's office.

Dr. Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng was found guilty of second-degree murder by a Los Angeles jury last year.

Naturally, as a doctor, Dr. Tseng has a responsibility to her patients. This duty should not, however, exceed the scope of what a physician may control, and this decision may set an incredibly dangerous precedent.

This precedent, however, is what some family members of the deceased hoped for. "I really hope this sets a precedent that will allow other dirty doctors to be prosecuted," said April Rovero, mother of one of the three who died. "We feel that finally we have justice."

In the sentencing hearing on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said Dr. Tseng attempted to blame other people for what happened. "It seems to be an attempt to put the blame on someone else," he said. "Very irresponsible."

As the LA Times stories point out, this case is troublesome. "Tseng, 46, who was a general practitioner, is among a small but growing number of doctors charged with murder for prescribing painkillers that killed patients. A Florida doctor was acquitted of first-degree murder in September," wrote report Marisa Gerber.

It is certainly lamentable that these three people died, but holding a medical professional responsible for abuse of medications they prescribe may have wide-ranging, unintended consequences that may impact doctors who prescribe with the best of intentions.

The growing trend of trying to hold doctors accountable for patient behavior beyond the scope of the physician's control is quite serious. If you hold any professional license and you are charged with a crime linked to that license, you need to fight it.

Physicians and health care providers, in particular, must consider the implications of criminal allegations beyond just criminal court, as mere allegations of wrongdoing may give rise to issues with several state and federal licensing entities. Since the right to practice medicine hinges on state licensure, and the right to prescribe medications depends on DEA certification, it is crucial to consider criminal allegations from multiple angles. If you are charged with a crime contact an Atlanta healthcare attorney at Frances Cullen, P.C. - someone who understands the unique demands of defending licensed health care professionals.