In Los Angeles, a female doctor has been convicted of second-degree murder for the drug-overdose deaths of three patients.
Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, who has a clinic in Rowland Heights, was convicted for the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, Steven Ogle, 25, and Joseph Rovero III, 21, between March and December 2009, Xinhua news agency reported. Tseng's case marked the first time a doctor in the state has been charged with murder for the deaths of patients who overdose on the drugs he or she prescribes.
"This verdict sends a strong message to individuals in the medical community who put patients at risk for their own financial gain," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. "In this case, the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick," Lacey said.
In addition to three counts of second-degree murder, Tseng was also convicted of 19 counts of unlawful prescription of a controlled substance and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, according to local media reports.
A prosecutor told jurors earlier this month that Tseng, who faces life in prison from December 14, faked medical records to cover up her misdeeds, and the case involved the "prescribing of high levels of opiates" without medical justification to patients who did not need them even after she learned some had overdosed on the substances she prescribed.
Deputy District Attorney John Niedermann said that Tseng had received calls from coroner's officials about deaths of some of the patients she had seen, along with fielding calls from family members who had told her not to prescribe to or see their loved ones.
Defence lawyer Tracy Green, however, said Tseng should not have been convicted of anything more than manslaughter and plans to appeal.
"It's disappointing," Green said. "I do not think it bodes well for doctors in America." Tseng agreed in February 2012 to surrender her license and stopped practice just before being taken into custody in connection with the criminal charges.