More Physicians Facing Criminal Charges

The number of U.S. doctors facing criminal charges is on the rise as white collar crime laws are put into the books and as drug control laws are more strictly enforced, according to Reuters. There have been recent famous instances of this, including the ongoing charges against Michael Jackson’s lawyer for medical negligence (and possibly involuntary manslaughter) and the eventual acquittal of Anna Nicole Smith’s doctor against charges that he violated the controlled substances law. Many lawsuits invoke the language in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which stipulates that a medical professional is liable if they knowingly and intentionally prescribed medication outside “the usual course of professional practice” or not for a “legitimate medical purpose.”

Medical negligence cases in the United States are usually settled in civil court, with the doctor having to compensate the victim or the victim’s family, but criminal convictions are becoming more common as well. Reuters reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has seen an increase in convictions. For 2003, the agency reported 15 physician arrests that resulted in convictions, a number that grew to 43 for the year 2008. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999 to 2006, fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers more than tripled to 13,800 in the United States.

For this reason, many states are cracking down on illegal pain clinics and suspected doctors. Florida has been widely considered to be the worst drug enforcement state. Attorney General Pam Bondi called Florida the “epicenter” of the country’s prescription drug problems and Governor Rick Scott called the epidemic the “scourge of our state”. The Drug Enforcement Administration says around 12% of its successful convictions, 28 of its 226, were in Florida. Emergency room visits from prescription drug overdoses doubled from 2004 to 2009, topping 1.2 million. 

Attempts to curb the problem of medical negligence like Florida’s new “pill mill law” have been fairly successful, but a small number of medical professionals reportedly continue to illegally provide medicine for phantom illnesses or in improper dosages. Pill mill raids are cropping up throughout the Southeast.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have been the victim of a doctor’s medical negligence or malpractice, contact a medical malpractice attorney to see if you could possibly be entitled to compensation for your pain, medical bills, and lost wages. Contact us today for a free, no-risk case evaluation.