After the Vietnam War tens of thousands of injured soldiers came home, some with major long term injuries. An unusually high number became addicted to opioids. As a result, thinking on the prescribing of pain medication shifted towards very conservative provision of pain meds. In the early 2000’s medical research found that pain actually inhibited healing and recovery. Patients who were under-prescribed pain medication took substantially longer to recover than patients receiving larger doses. This led to new pain management strategies, and an admission by the medical profession that it really didn’t make any difference if a dying cancer patient became an addict.
This new rationality has helped. BTx3 had major open heart surgery a few years ago. I can tell you from time spent in that recovery ward that it is amazing people get up from that. The morning after the operation they get you up and walk you around (complete with a couple of carts of tubes and IVs attached to your body trailing along). Of course you are so zorked out from the pain medication you can’t feel the pain. After four days of that, I refused to take the pain meds anymore. The effects of the meds bothered me worse than the pain from a 12″ hole in my chest and other assorted holes for tubes in my stomach, thigh, and legs. Yeah it hurt, but it wasn’t debilitating. Which makes me believe that some folks may be less susceptible to pain medication addiction than others, and such may just be genetic. Science knows that alcohol addiction is passed down by generation – perhaps the same is true for other types of addiction? They sent me home with a bottle full of Oxycontin. I never opened it and threw it away.
The following remarkably sympathetic article about a Dr in LA whose patients were overdosing and dying on pain meds misses one key point. Over-prescription may result ina Dr’s patients becoming addicted. It is a known risk in any aggressive pain management strategy. Prescribing large quantities of drugs to addicted users far beyond that needed to support their well being, and or people who are going to sell those drugs on the illegal market…Is a crime just like that of any street corner drug pusher.
The only differences being, the Drug Pusher doesn’t have a fancy degree from a top University, and nobody claims the Pusher isn’t in the business of crime. They are both i it for the money!
A Judge on Friday sentenced a Rowland Heights doctor to 30 years to life in prison for the murders of three of her patients who fatally overdosed, ending a landmark case that some medical experts say could reshape how doctors nationwide handle prescriptions.
The sentence came after a Los Angeles jury last year found Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng guilty of second-degree murder, the first time a doctor had been convicted of murder in the U.S. for overprescribing drugs.
Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said before sentencing Tseng that she had attempted to blame patients, pharmacists and other doctors rather than take responsibility for her own actions.
“It seems to be an attempt to put the blame on someone else,” he said. “Very irresponsible.”
Tseng, wearing blue jail scrubs, apologized to the victims’ families, her family and “medical society.”
“I’m really terribly sorry,” she said, before addressing the courtroom audience, which was crowded with victims’ relatives. “I have been and forever will be praying for you. May God bless all of you and grant comfort to all who have been affected by my actions.”
The 46-year-old former 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.
Some experts fear that Tseng’s conviction will usher in a precarious new reality – a scenario in which doctors fearful of prosecution are hesitant to prescribe potent painkillers to patients who need them.
Attorney Peter Osinoff, who represented Tseng before the state medical board, told the judge during Friday’s hearing that the doctor no longer represents a danger to society since she surrendered her medical license in 2012.
The trial had already had a “deterrent effect” on other doctors and has captured the medical community’s attention.
“More primary care physicians no longer accept or treat chronic pain patients in their practice,” he told the judge.
Outside the courtroom, Osinoff said Tseng’s prosecution has had a negative impact on physicians and patients.
“The doctors are scared out of their minds,” he said. “The pendulum has swung so far. The people who need [pain medication] can’t get it now.”
Other medical experts have echoed his concerns since Tseng was charged in 2012.
“When you use the word ‘murder,’” said Dr. Peter Staats, president of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, “of course it’s going to have a chilling effect.”
Staats said he believes an aggressive medical board – not prosecutors – should go after reckless doctors. But, he added, any doctor who is prescribing pills knowing that they are being abused or diverted shouldn’t be called a doctor.
“That’s not the practice of medicine,” Staats said.
Dr. Francis Riegler, a pain specialist who works in Palmdale, said he has followed Tseng’s case and talked about the prosecution with fellow doctors across the country.
“We agree,” he said, “that if you’re doing the right thing – if you’re one of the good guys, if you will – you don’t need to worry about being prosecuted for murder.”
During Tseng’s trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Niedermann told jurors that there were “red flags” in her prescribing habits.
More than a dozen times, the prosecutor said, a coroner’s or law enforcement official called with the same stark message: “Your patient has died.”
Her prescribing habits, Niedermann said, remained unchanged.
The prosecutor told jurors that Tseng wrote a man’s name on prescriptions so his wife could get twice as many pills, openly referred to her patients as “druggies” and sometimes made up medical records.
Her motivation, Niedermann said, was financial.
Between 2007, when Tseng joined the Rowland Heights clinic where her husband worked, and 2010, tax returns show that their office made $5 million, he said.
Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said the conviction sent an unflinching message to medical professionals.
“In this case,” Lacey said, “the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick.”
Tseng was convicted of murder for the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert; and Joey Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student who prosecutors say traveled more than 300 miles with friends from Tempe, Ariz., to obtain prescriptions from Tseng at her Rowland Heights clinic.
The jury also found Tseng guilty on more than a dozen illegal-prescribing counts.