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Doctor charged with murder in opioid overdose deaths

As the opioid crisis continues to ravage parts of California and the rest of the nation, attention focuses not just on users and black market dealers, but also on pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals who, critics say, created the problem by flooding the market with highly addictive opioid-derived painkillers. Some professionals have faced criminal charges.

A Bay Area doctor now faces second-degree murder and other charges in connection with the opioid-related deaths of several of his patients. Prosecutors say the Santa Rosa doctor overprescribed drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and morphine, giving his patients very high dosages in quantities as large as 300 pills at a time. Prosecutors say the doctor continued to increase prescriptions even after pharmacies and others warned him of the potential for problems, and even after some patients died from overdoses. Many of his patients were elderly.

Through his lawyer, the doctor denied the charges, saying the deaths resulted from drugs prescribed by other physicians. In one case, the lawyer said, the patient died by suicide.

While everyone is concerned about the toll addiction places on our communities, we must remember that everyone accused of a crime must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. All who are accused of a crime deserve a defense.

Criminal defense is never easy, and the quality of legal help is always crucial, but when the case involves complicated issues such as medical ethics, it can be especially important for the accused to seek out help from a defense attorney with experience in the issues involved.

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