Palm Beach County doctors who prescribe narcotic pain medications are often caught between a rock and a hard place these days. Doctors need to be cautious in light of the pain clinic crackdowns going on county-wide. Doctors have a very real fear that police and prosecutors will scrutinize their prescription choices for patients and they fear losing their medical licenses as well as prosecution for drug trafficking or worse. But, they must weigh that fear against the very real need to treat patients who are in serious pain. Patients who genuinely need the prescription medications shouldn’t be penalized or denied the necessary treatment. Doctors recognize this and often have to assess the genuineness of a patient’s need for prescription medications, which means longer waits for patients in need.
A doctor’s fears can be truly realized when a patient overdoses on prescription pain medications that he prescribed. A recent example here in Palm Beach County is Dr. John Christensen. Dr. Christensen has been battling wrongful death lawsuits and the Board of Medicine over allegations that three of his patients overdosed because of the large amounts of narcotics he prescribed. In the case of one patient, Dr. Christensen prescribed 60 tablets of methadone, 60 tablets of Xanax, and 240 tablets of Roxicodone per month. While an expert for the Florida Department of Health described these prescription quantities as “one hundred percent lethal,” an administrative law court recently recommended that the complaint against Dr. Christensen be dismissed. Judge Patricia Hart found no evidence Dr. Christensen violated standards of medical care by prescribing such powerful narcotics, mainly because Dr. Christensen was gradually reducing the medication the patient had already been taking for his chronic knee and back pain.
Other South Florida doctors have even faced more severe consequences, namely manslaughter and murder charges, stemming from patient overdoses. Dr. Denis Deonarine of Jupiter was acquitted of first degree murder in 2001, but was convicted of selling narcotics, racketeering, and fraud. He’s currently serving a 25 year sentence. Dr. Sergio R. Rodriguez, a West Palm Beach pediatrician, is currently facing seventeen charges, including first degree murder, drug trafficking, and sale of oxycodone.
Doctors currently face very real consequences when they write prescriptions for any narcotic medications. However, this doesn’t mean that patients don’t genuinely need and deserve to have their pain managed with medically necessary prescriptions. When a doctor finds himself being scrutinized for his medical decisions, he or she needs to hire an experienced attorney familiar with drug trafficking cases against medical practitioners.