Doctors are generally given a lot of latitude when it comes to their decisions to prescribe pain medications to their patients. However, overprescribing drugs can lead to addiction for the unsuspecting patients. When there is a pattern of overprescribing drugs, the doctor may face federal drug charges as well as medical malpractice lawsuits.
In October of 2015, Dr. Charles Szyman was temporarily suspended from the practice of medicine by the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board. The Manitowoc pain specialist was accused of overprescribing painkillers to patients, which the county coroner believes may be linked to patient overdose deaths. He was also fired from his position with Holy Family Memorial Hospital.
“It was to the point of significant and unusual because of the high doses and high levels of pills and the milligrams people were taking,” said Manitowoc County Coroner, Curt Green. “It was very significant and in some cases unheard of.”
According to law enforcement, Dr. Szyman has been known for years as the doctor to go to to get narcotic pain pills. A couple of years ago, the county sheriff's drug unit and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began investigating Dr. Szyman. According to undercover agents posing as patients, they met with Dr. Szyman, admitting not to having pain at the time but were still prescribed month's worth of Percocet and Oxycodone.
Some of Dr. Szyman patients sold their prescription drugs on the street, bringing in thousands of dollars every month. One patient, identified as “Patient E” in the indictment, walked out of an appointment with Dr. Szyman with prescriptions for almost 4,000 pills. Another former patient told law enforcement she had received 1,200 Oxycodone pills in one month. This was in spite of Dr. Szyman's knowledge that she had prior overdose attempts. The sheriff's department identified at least five former patients of Dr. Szyman who died from a drug overdose or suicide.
In June, Dr. Szyman pleaded “not guilty” to 19 federal drug charges after a grand jury returned an indictment finding Szyman “knowingly and unlawfully distributed a controlled substance outside of his professional practice, and not for legitimate medical purpose.”
According to the indictment, between November 2013 and February 2015, Dr. Szyman prescribed almost 20,000 drugs to patients, primarily Oxycodone, morphine, Fentanyl, buprenorphine, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone.
On top of the federal criminal charges, Dr. Szyman now faces medical malpractice lawsuits from at least nine former patients or their estates. According to the complaint regarding one former patient, “The level of narcotics being prescribed was far beyond any medically legitimate, recognized or reasonable prescription of these types of narcotics and resulted in Heidi Buretta becoming a narcotic pain pill addict which eventually caused her death.”
If you or a loved one has been harmed as the result of medical misdiagnosis or mistreatment, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a medical malpractice claim on your behalf. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting your family compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.