A Manhattan jury found Stan Xuhui Li, MD, guilty of manslaughter for overprescribing painkillers to two patients, Joseph Haeg, 37, and Nicholas Rappold, 21, who later suffered fatal overdoses.
The 60-year-old anesthesiologist from New Jersey, was found guilty of two counts of second-degree manslaughter, six counts of recklessly endangering the lives of six other patients, and 180 counts of selling prescriptions for controlled substances (view all charges here).
Dr. Li ran a pain-management clinic out of a basement office in Queens 1 day each weekend, seeing up to 100 patients a day. Posting a price list on his wall for drugs, Dr. Li accepted payment primarily in cash and pocketed nearly $500,000 over 2.5 years. He prescribed opioids such as oxycodone and anti-anxiety drugs such as alprazolam to high-risk patients—ignoring evidence of drug abuse and addiction, drug diversion, prior overdoses, and degenerating health.
In both manslaughter counts, Dr. Li was charged with failing to perform adequate examinations to verify Haeg and Rappold’s reports of chronic pain and ignored repeated warning signs of addiction. According to prosecutors, Haeg received 15 prescriptions for controlled substances from Dr. Li, including oxycodone, within 3 months leading up to his death. In the final month, Haeg received more than 500 pills in two visits, the last visit only 3 days before he died of acute oxycodone intoxication.
Rappold also died 3 days after his last appointment with Dr. Li. He was found with a bottle of Xanax with only 35 pills remaining of 90 from a prescription prescribed only 3 days before. Cause of death was acute intoxication by the combined effects of Xanax and oxycodone, both of which had been prescribed by Dr. Li.
Sentence to Come
The glorified drug dealer was charged in 2012 following an investigation spurred by complaints to authorities from the families of Li’s addict patients. Dr. Li faces up to 15 years in prison for each of the top counts. He’ll likely face additional prison time for reckless endangerment, falsifying business records and other charges.
Charging doctors accused of knowingly prescribing painkillers to drug abusers with manslaughter is rare in New York, since they are typically charged with criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance.
“We believed that the public needed protection from criminally reckless conduct that purported to be medical treatment but resulted in loss of life, addiction and harm to patients,” city Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement.
Source: Press release from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York.