When medical malpractice leads to criminal charges

It cannot be disputed that some Florida medical patients die because of negligence on the part of medical staff members. More rare, however, are cases wherein a medical malpractice accusation results in criminal charges being filed against a physician. Such are the circumstances recently brought to light in the first session of what is projected to be a long criminal trial against a doctor who is being charged with murder.

It was reported that the recent murder trial began with images of medical patients being flashed on a projector screen before the eyes of those present in the courtroom. Each person, the prosecutor asserted, died due to drug overdose from prescriptions written by the doctor on trial. An instructor from a school of law said that the case should alert doctors everywhere to avoid recklessness when issuing prescriptions to patients.

The doctor in the recent case practices in California. Prosecutors there are seeking her criminal conviction for second-degree murder for multiple Xanax overdose deaths that involved prescriptions she had written. It is typically considered exceptional for a physician to face murder charges in conjunction with deaths from prescribed drugs. The law school instructor also said that he believes a conviction in this case could lead to doctors’ everywhere being hesitant to write prescriptions for patients in the future.

It has been asserted that the doctor in this case had received several alarming phone calls from coroners and law enforcement officers warning her that her prescription writing practices might be related to the deaths of multiple patients; according to information provided, she did nothing to change her practices — even after one patient allegedly died in the hallway of her own clinic. The outcome of the criminal trial remains to be seen. In other cases, immediate family members in Florida who survive the death of a loved one are able to pursue medical malpractice claims for monetary damages in civil court against those deemed responsible for the death of their spouse, parent or child — regardless of whether criminal charges have or have not been filed in a case. Those involved in such circumstances will most likely want to seek the guidance of an attorney before proceeding to court in order to discuss the issues and determine how best to proceed.

SourceLos Angeles Times, “Murder trial sends message to doctors: ‘Don’t get reckless,’ medical expert says“, Marisa Gerber, Aug. 31, 2015