Dr. Lisa Tseng was convicted of murder for the deaths of three of her patients, and the case marks the first time in U.S. history that a doctor has been convicted of murder for over-prescribing drugs. According to a report from the Associated Press, Tseng was also convicted of illegally writing prescriptions for two of the deceased patients and 16 other people, including two undercover agents who were investigating how easily she prescribed addictive pain pills after brief office visits.
The case against Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng is an unusual example of a case against a doctor in a time when the abuse of prescription drugs has become an epidemic, despite legislators efforts to make it difficult for specialized clinics to easily prescribe pain medication with little scrutiny.
The trial for the Rowland Heights (Los Angeles) doctor lasted nearly two months. On Friday, the 45-year-old was found guilty of 23 counts, including 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription, three second-degree murder convictions, and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
KTLA wrote in their report that during the trial, Deputy District Atty. John Niedermann told jurors that even after some patients — among them an undercover agent — told Tseng about their heroin addiction, she still agreed to give them powerful narcotics without asking follow-up questions.
“She wrote them a prescription for the very thing they’re addicted to,” Niedermann said. “She shoved them over that cliff. You can’t hide behind a white lab coat and commit crimes,” he added. “Writing a prescription to someone knowing that they’re going to abuse it and potentially die was the theory of second-degree murder that we had.”
The Daily Mail reported that a dozen of Tseng’s patients died, including one that swallowed an overdose in his own office. However, prosecutors only brought three murder charges against her because of other factors involved in some of those deaths, such as drugs prescribed by other doctors and a possible suicide. Tseng was convicted of all but one of 21 charges related to drugs. She showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
A few relatives of those who died at the hands of Tseng were present in the courtroom at the time of the ruling. April Rovero’s son died almost six years ago due to a fatal mixture of alcohol, Xanax, and oxycodone. Tseng illegally prescribed the drugs to the 21-year-old. Rovero is pleased with the verdict and she believes it will prevent other doctors from committing the same crime.
“I really hope this sets a precedent that will allow other dirty doctors to be prosecuted,” Rovero told reporters.”We feel that finally we have justice.”
Not everyone feels that Tseng is to blame for her patient’s death, and one such person is her mother, who declined to give her first name.
“My daughter is someone who loved to save lives,” the emotional woman said via an interpreter. “She always believed in her patients, and always tried to help her patients. She’s innocent of all these accusations.”
Tseng’s lawyer, Tracy Green, said her client naively trusted her patients. She said they claimed to have a legitimate pain, and then became addicted to drugs, hiding these addictions to consult other doctors and take prescriptions at different pharmacies.
Green said that Tseng shouldn’t have been convicted of anything more than manslaughter and plans to appeal the ruling.
“It’s disappointing,” Green expressed after the trial. “I don’t think it bodes well for doctors in America.”
[Image via YouTube screenshot]