LBN recently reported on the case of Dr. Lisa Tseng, who is being tried for murder in the overdose deaths of three of her former patients. She could receive a sentence of life in prison. This is an uncommon occurrence. According to DEA records, about 200 physicians have been arrested or convicted in connection with prescriptions for patients involved in overdoses since 2003. In this report Tracy Green, who represents Dr. Tseng, discusses the case.
Green says that the prosecution, at least at the beginning, is “putting everything in a blender.” During opening statements, the government made it seem as though numerous people died of overdoses, when in fact, the case is considerably narrower than that, consisting of three counts of second degree murder. In order to prove those charges, the government first has to establish causation—that what Dr. Tseng did was the cause of the overdoses, that the overdoses were reasonable foreseeable, and that there no intervening causes.
The government’s position must be that, because some other patients of other doctors died of overdoses, Dr. Tseng must have known that her patients might have the same problem. She must have known that patients might mix these drugs with alcohol or street drugs, and therefore, she must have had malice. Green says that, instead of focusing on what must be proved to make a case, the government is talking about emotional issues and the epidemic of drug overdoses in the country.
Green says that Dr. Tseng’s background is not particularly in pain management. She joined her husband’s practice after time working in a hospital, and the hospital experience probably didn’t give her as much family practice background as she should have had. Green says that, around 2007, more patients started coming in with pain management issues. Dr. Tseng began to encounter people who were adept at exaggerating their pain problems in order to get drugs.
Reports in the press say that Dr. Tseng wrote over 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period, but the information does not say that these were prescriptions for narcotics. Green says that reports like this are misleading because none of this information will get to the jury. The evidence in the case is dealing with prescriptions only for the patients involved in the case. There is no allegation that Dr. Tseng conspired to distribute controlled substances. Dr. Tseng practiced with her husband, and he is still practicing. The 27,000 figure is for both doctors.
Green says that information will shortly come into the case that undercover agents came to see Dr. Tseng, seeking drugs like Vicodin and oxycontin, and were told by Dr. Tseng that she wouldn’t write them a prescription for those drugs. Dr. Tseng was adamant about dosage, Green says, telling the agents to take only one or two pills per day and to not mix these pills with anything else.
Green says that the case against Dr. Tseng began as a medical board case. Several jurisdictions refused to take it on as a criminal case. Green says that the government is ignoring the role of at least one pharmacy in the overdose problems. Green notes that a least one pharmacy tech knew of one of the overdose victims. Green points out that pharmacies have an obligation to be aware of who is receiving a prescription and to not blindly pass out controlled substances to people who are apparently fit to receive those drugs. Pharmacies must make their own independent judgment and must contact the doctor in some circumstances.
Green suggests that there is much more to the case than has appeared in the press.
Tracy Green is the founding partner of Green & Associates, Los Angeles, California. She combines more than 25 years of experience with a strategic, results-oriented approach and is considered to be one of California's preeminent attorneys in fraud investigations and audits, complex white collar investigations and cases, health care regulatory issues, administrative law and licensing law, litigation (complex civil and criminal), and health care regulatory matters. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.