A Des Moines, Iowa, physician is currently under investigation for allegedly over-prescribing opiates to eight patients, which may have contributed to their deaths. According to the New York Daily News, Dr. Daniel Baldi pleaded not guilty on September 5 to involuntary manslaughter.
According to the lawsuit, one of the patients involved was Paul Gray, founder and former guitarist of the band Slipknot, who died of a drug overdose in a Des Moines hotel in 2010. The legal documents allege that despite the fact that Baldi knew Gray was addicted to the narcotics, the doctor continued to give him a high dosage of the medication throughout the five years leading to his death.
Five of the additional patients included in the lawsuit are said to have also been drug addicts, and two of them Baldi had allegedly only seen once prior to their deaths.
Drug overdoses from taking too much prescription medication have significantly increased over the years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A January release of the center's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated that in 2007, deaths from overdose of narcotics occurred every 19 minutes.
"Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States," the CDC stated. "The increase in unintentional drug overdose death rates in recent years has been driven by increased use of a class of prescription drugs called opioid analgesics [painkillers]. Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined."
In addition to the alarming rise in deaths, the source stated that for every overdose death, nine people have substance abuse problems, 35 have visited emergency room departments, 161 have reported drug dependence and 461 report use of the narcotics for nonmedical purposes.
Though not all narcotic users get their medication from physicians, there is a growing number of doctors who are handing out prescriptions to patients without having any legitimate medical reason. After the infamous death of pop star Michael Jackson, many began questioning whether other doctors were also overprescribing their patients on a regular basis. According to Reuters, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that in 2008, the number of doctors arrested on criminal charges for overprescribing medication rose to over 40, when in 2003, there were only 15 cases reported.
A Los Angeles physician is facing a murder trial after three of her patients died of drug overdoses, including one who overdosed in her office. According to The Associated Press, Dr. Hsui-Ying “Lisa” Tseng is suspected of second-degree murder after overprescribing young patients medication such as Xanax, Adderall, oxycodone and methadone. Throughout a three-year period, Tseng is suspected of illegally writing over 27,000 prescriptions to patients for the medications.
Tseng contends she is not guilty of the 24 felony counts. If convicted, she faces 45 years to life in prison. The judge, M.L. Villar de Longoria, said Tseng should have been aware of the prescription amount she was writing at the time three of her patients passed away in 2007 and 2008.
“She continued to prescribe these narcotics in high doses even after she was told something was terribly wrong and young men were overdosing and dying,” Villar de Longoria said.
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