Attorney General Becerra: Murder Conviction of California Doctor Who Recklessly Prescribed Deadly Opioids Upheld on Appeal

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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The defendant is the first doctor in California to be convicted of murder based on the prescription of opioid medications

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his legal team secured a critical victory in the fight against opioid abuse when the California Court of Appeal upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a former osteopathic doctor, Hsiu Ying Tseng. Tseng was convicted on February 5, 2016, of second-degree murder for the prescription drug overdoses of three of her patients: Vu Nguyen, Steven Ogle, and Joseph Rovero. Tseng was also convicted of 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. The trial court sentenced Tseng to 30 years to life in state prison. 

“Every day, the opioid crisis destroys lives and communities. It spares no one,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Doctors like Hsiu Ying Tseng who engage in reckless practices when prescribing drugs that lead to addiction, overdose, and in this case, death, must be held accountable. While the court’s ruling will not bring back the lives lost, it sends a powerful message to those in positions of trust that they, too, will pay a high price for their reckless behavior.”

Following her sentencing on February 5, 2016, Tseng appealed her conviction. On December 14, 2018, in a 45-page ruling, the appellate court found there was overwhelming evidence of Tseng’s knowledge of the risks involved in her conduct and her reckless indifference to the lives of her patients. The court’s published ruling recognizes that a medical professional who knowingly and recklessly prescribes potentially deadly drugs to vulnerable patients, in increasing doses and with utter disregard for their welfare, has committed murder. This marks the first time that a doctor in California has been convicted on charges of murder based on the prescription of opioid medications. 

A copy of the opinion can be found here.

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