Journal of Drug Safety and Toxicology

Prosecutorial Abuses in Prosecuting Physicians for Drug Related Crimes in the Course of Practicing Medicine

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Published Date: August 30, 2018

Prosecutorial Abuses in Prosecuting Physicians for Drug Related Crimes in the Course of Practicing Medicine

Alen Salerian

Neuroscience Institute, Zaimi 8, Paleo Faliro, Athens 17562, Greece

*Corresponding author: Alen Salerian, Neuroscience Institute, Zaimi 8, Paleo Faliro, Athens 17562, Greece, E-mail: alensalerian@gmail.com

Copyright: © 2018 Salerian AJ This is an  open access  article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

 

Abstract

 

From the past few decades approximately 20,000 physicians were treating criminal prosecution patients suffering from chronic pain and psychiatric disorders. But one of the physicians prescribed overprescribed opiates to treat his cases. Maryland Board of Medicine in the year 2010 suspended the medical license to not to practice as physician. He was imprisoned by the government. The most crucial importance of the medical evidence is necessary to prosecute a physician for drug related crimes in the course of medical practice.

Keywords: Prosecutorial abuses; Physicians; Medical license; Drug related crimes

 

Drug Research

 

I would like to share the story of my friend and colleague Silviu Ziscovici MD. His sad story illustrates the challenges faced by physicians accused of drug related crimes in the course of practicing medicine. At a time of some 130 million Americans battling with chronic pain and psychiatric disorders [1] and some 20,000 physicians treating pain having endured criminal prosecution in the last several decades (Table1) [2–5].

On March 10, 2010 DEA agents-alleging Dr Ziscovici contributed to drug trafficking  by overprescribed opiates  - raided his home and office in Rockville Maryland [6]. Noteworthy of the raid were the confiscation of several hundred patient medical records, the forfeiture of family wealth of several million dollars and the urgent medical treatment for a broken jaw suffered by Dr Ziscovici.

In June 2010 the Maryland Board of Medicine ordered the summary suspension of Dr Ziscovici’s medical license triggering the shutdown of his practice. Five years would pass before the indictment of Dr. Ziscovici of 29 counts for conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs on June 10, 2015. The very same day he would be jailed. A week later a medical emergency- triggered by sudden stoppage of meds- would confine Dr Ziscovici into the ICU of Suburban Hospital. The doctor would go home some six months after his imprisonment.

Dr Ziscovicis trial was scheduled to start on September 3, 2016. He was confident the truth would prevail specially after learning that Independent medical experts who had reviewed his medical records found them to be excellent. Surprisingly his own defense team was urging him to consider a plea bargain of 2 or 3 years in prison. The emphasis was the infinite resources of government and the 98% conviction rate of accused physicians. Then came a few discoveries: Government had no evidence of malpractice: The government’s medical expert had said “illegible handwriting prevented the review of medical records “. Also, the prosecution could not explain how some 200 medical records confiscated during the raid disappeared (Table 2).

In June 2016, all the charges against Dr Ziscovici were dismissed with prejudice (6). There are many lessons to learn from the sad tale of Dr Ziscovici. Perhaps the most important one is the crucial importance of the medical evidence necessary to prosecute a physician for drug related crimes in the course of medical practice. The prosecution must show that a physician was not simply negligent by over prescribing medications but that he or she had shown reckless disregard of care and acted totally out of the boundaries of medical practice. And thus was no longer practicing medicine.

Dr. Ziscovici’s personal saga may also offer new insights into the very high conviction rate (98%) of physicians accused of drug related crimes in the course of practice. Often the government victory is ensured by stripping accused physicians of the financial and psychological means of self defense by double strangulation of finances and character. Also of importance has been our government’s infinite power to inflict pain by slow attrition. Torture by imprisonment without due process, poverty and shame. Who would not admit just to end misery?

 

Conflict of Interest

 

No conflicts of interest to disclose.

 

References

 

  1. Institute of Medicine Report, June 2012.
  2. Libby R. The criminalization of medicine. Krieger publication. 2002.
  3. Libby R. Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers. Policy Analysis. June 16, 2005.
  4. Salerian AJ. Injury and deaths upon practice closure: a review of four Washington DC physicians. Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry. 2016;5(6).
  5. Reidenberg MM, Willis O. Prosecution of doctors for prescribing opiates. Clinical Pharmacology And Therapeutics. 2007;81(6):903–06.
  6. Case 8:14-cr-00362-PJM in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt Maryland.

 

Citation: Salerian A (2018) Prosecutorial Abuses in Prosecuting Physicians for Drug Related Crimes in the Course of Practicing Medicine. J Dru Saf Tox 1(1):103.