Medical malpractice can be deadly. These days, when it occurs in connection with opioids and other restricted prescriptions, it can result in criminal charges as well as lawsuits.
Two years after the police turned the office of an Ohio doctor upside down looking for evidence that the he was trafficking drugs to his patients, the physician has been charged with 272 crimes. The charges include involuntary manslaughter.
Those charges relate to causing the malpractice deaths of two of his patients by overprescribing them narcotics, sleeping pills, sedatives and other drugs. The doctor, Frank Lazzerini, agreed to turn over his license two years ago when the investigation began. That decision was based on the idea that he could regain it once he was cleared of charges.
It doesn’t appear like that is likely to happen any time soon. In addition to the felony drug charges and manslaughter, the doctor was facing wrongful death lawsuits based on medical malpractice. The widow of one of his patients and the widower of another both filed suit, alleging that their spouses died as a result of the physician’s negligent care.
Unfortunately, neither may be able to get any satisfaction in court any time soon. The doctor filed bankruptcy about 6 months after his practice was closed by federal agents. Both litigants withdrew their lawsuits, probably because there weren’t any assets or income available for compensation. It’s unclear whether or not the doctor was insured at the time the patients died.
Medical malpractice involving opioids and other prescriptions are a serious problem, especially in Ohio and some surrounding states. In the recent past, some doctors have been far too free with their prescription pads, passing out narcotics and other drugs like they were essentially candy.
Those that had a reputation for being an easy source of opioids, or “hillbilly heroin,” often attracted a large but low income clientele. Law enforcement is focusing heavily on these types of doctors, hoping to send a message to others.
Unfortunately, the aggressive legal approach may leave victims of malpractice and their survivors unable to pursue restitution in civil court if insurance is inadequate. In any medical malpractice case, the ability to collect a judgment is a necessary consideration before either an attorney or litigant goes forward.
Source: CantonRep.com, “UPDATE: Lazzerini accused of running a ‘pill mill” out of his office,” Robert Wang, Feb. 16, 2018