A doctor in Oklahoma was recently charged with five counts of second-degree murder for recklessly prescribing opioids to her patients, leading to their deaths due to an overdose. A county district court in Oklahoma charged 57-year-old osteopathic physician Regan Ganoung Nichols for total disregard for the lives of her patients and prescribing excessive opioids. The patients had no idea what high doses of opioids could do to their lives. “Nichols’ blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. She was released from jail on a bail of $50,000, the reports said.
An affidavit reported by the Associated Press, citing the probable cause of deaths in patients, raps Nichols for prescribing almost 1,800 unnecessary opioid pills to the deceased patients. It also alleged that she prescribed a fatal combination of painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications to the three of the five deceased patients.
If convicted, Nichols could go behind bars for 10 years for each of the five counts. The deaths she is accused of occurred between 2010 and 2013. However, there are speculations that as many as 10 of her patients died of opioid overdoses. Agencies are now tightening the noose on these indifferent doctors who fail to value patients’ lives.
Looking at the opioid crisis engulfing the United States, law enforcement agencies and authorities have decided to punish the erring parties, including doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Several lawsuits were filed against opioid manufacturing companies in the past couple of weeks in a handful of states in the U.S. for propelling this opioid mess. There is a close vigil on doctors and pharma companies with a dubious past record. An estimated 91 people die in the U.S. each day due to opioid overdose, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015 alone, more than 33,000 Americans died due to opioid overdoses, which is a huge four-fold jump since 2000.
The callousness of doctors who inordinately prescribe opioids to gullible patients is a great threat to the country. Doctors like Nichols act like angels of death, endangering the lives of patients prescribing huge amounts of opioids, enough to cause overdose deaths. A litany of other doctors also faced charges for overprescribing opioids to patients struggling with addiction.
In 2014, another Oklahoma doctor had admitted to eight counts of manslaughter by overprescribing opioids. In 2015, Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for overprescribing opioids that lead to the death of three of her patients due to opioid overdose. She received a sentence of 30 years in prison. Hers was the first conviction against a U.S. doctor for prescribing opioids.
Indiscriminate prescribing of opioids by doctors for making money has cost many lives. With an excess of opioid prescription, people who are already grappling with addiction stare directly at death, as chances of overdose rise drastically. It is the responsibility of the doctors to help them out of the mess by emphasizing on patient safety.
Addiction is a malady and needs to be intervened at the earliest. Although chronic and severe addiction may be fatal, timely treatment can save the lives of substance abuse patients. Hence, if a loved one is struggling with an addiction, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online. Reach out to our drug addiction help online or alcohol helpline for further information. One must not delay treatment or it can exacerbate the situation.