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Attorney: Prince’s Physician May Be Held Liable

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 8, 2016
Media Contact: James Judge
Tel: 813.279.8335
Cell: 727.463.1295
Email: jpjudge@judgepr.com

*** Members of the media interested in interviewing a representative from Chapman Law Group on this topic are encouraged to contact James Judge at 813.279.8335 or news@judgepr.com.***

TROY, Mich. – As details emerged last Thursday about the cause of death for the pop-music icon Prince, a prominent healthcare attorney, who specializes in representing physicians charged with “over-prescribing” in federal court and state courts across the country, suggested that Prince’s physician could be charged if he prescribed the Fentanyl to Prince.

According to the autopsy report, medical examiners determined Prince died from an overdose of Fentanyl he administered to himself.

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Legal experts from the Chapman Law Group represent and defend medical professionals who face criminal charges and civil litigation when it comes to situations like Prince’s case. Additionally, those attorneys say that the question of over-prescription is becoming an increasing issue.

“With overdose deaths related to prescription drugs taking the lives of prominent American celebrities like Prince and Michael Jackson, the public is increasingly concerned about the physicians who prescribe such medications,” explained Ronald Chapman, II, an attorney with the Chapman Law Group. “As the facts surrounding Prince’s death unfold, the dose and quantity of controlled substances provided to him by his physicians will face scrutiny.”

According to Chapman, there is a current Senate bill designed to increase federal minimum mandatory sentences for possessing and prescribing Fentanyl. The bill was proposed as a direct result of Prince’s death, Chapman said.

 

With the increase in overdose deaths, local and federal authorities have begun charging physicians criminally for providing controlled substances to patients when an overdose death is the result. From 2001 to 2014 there has been a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of overdose deaths in America according to the National Institute of Health.

Dealing with high level celebrities, athletes and the wealthy may cause some doctors to look the other way when prescribing medications like Fentanyl and other opioids to their patients. Chapman, who spoke at Harvard University on Monday about physicians charged with drug-trafficking and their potential criminal and civil liability, believes the number of doctors who are guilty is much lower than the public may realize.

“It is very possible that a physician could look the other way and prescribe to Prince simply because he was famous. However, most physicians take their Hippocratic oath very seriously and only prescribe controlled substances when medically appropriate,” explained Chapman, who was previously a judge advocate for the Marine Corps, where he assisted a unit during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Doctors, hospitals and pharmacies have a tight hold on a schedule II controlled substance like Fentanyl, though it is also used in outpatient treatment for post-surgical treatment for pain management. Other forms of this drug are created on the street and can be mixed with other fatal compounds.

“Fentanyl is a schedule II controlled substance and is significantly more potent than morphine. It is highly controlled by the DEA, but it can be synthetically manufactured by drug dealers. Physicians may only use Fentanyl to treat severe pain usually as the result of a surgery and only for a short duration,” explained Chapman.

“The troubling issue with the Prince case is that we are hearing reports that he was being treated for an opioid addiction and even needed Narcan, a medication used to stop an overdose,” said Chapman. “Prescribing a large quantity of medication to a person with a known addiction will be hard to explain.”

Currently, to get a conviction under federal law, prosecutors would be required to prove that the dose prescribed by the physician was not for a legitimate medical purpose and caused the overdose. The prosecutors will not have to show that the physician knew the patient was likely to overdose, Chapman explained.

In the end, if a physician did prescribe the deadly dose, Chapman says, the worst case scenario is that one of his doctors could face manslaughter charges for causing Prince’s death. The physician could also face ‘drug trafficking’ charges under 21 U.S.C. 841. The physician would also face a costly civil suit.

Chapman and his law group are devoted to representing health professionals nationwide accused of charges like over-prescribing. They have been successful in obtaining dismissal of drug trafficking charges against physicians in a number of states by successfully defending the medical decision making.

“Primarily, a physician’s best defense is to defend his or her medical decision making and show that the overdose was not caused by the prescription drugs he/she provided,” said Chapman.

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