“Drug addicts are not necessarily vulnerable victims. But many of Volkman’s patients had serious psychiatric problems, and prior suicide attempts, qualifying them for vulnerable-victim status.” (Judge Berniece Donald)
It took a little less than two years for Doctor Paul Volkman to kill 12 of his patients. We’re pleased to do the simple math for you: this madcap medicine man managed to end somebody’s life at least once every 60 days. He committed this torrid spree of homicide at a “no insurance, just cash” drug dealing business so inappropriately called the Tri-State Health Clinic, located in the small town of Portsmouth, Ohio. That was where he would routinely prescribe cartel volumes of narcotics to as many as 110 patients a week.
Volkman had applied for the position of clinic MD at Tri-State because he had a habit of stepping into deep legal doo-doo and no longer qualified for malpractice insurance. Not long after he arrived, the local drug stores started refusing to honor his prescriptions because it was clear to pharmacists he was improperly dosing patients. No problem for drug-dealer Volkman – as a trained pharmacist as well as a physician, he simply opened a drug store inside the clinic and presto! It was like Bowling for Dollars.
After federal DEA agents raided the clinic, the county grand jury indicted the doctor along with several others involved on a litany of felonies, including illegal drug distribution causing death. As an example, detectives found that Volkman had issued a 600+ pill prescription to one drug-addicted patient for Soma, Lortab, Xanax and oxycodone. Four of the patients whose deaths were tied to Volkman died within two days of leaving the clinic with a new prescription.
An Ohio jury convicted Volkman on four similar charges, and he was sentenced to four consecutive life terms. A three-judge panel in Cincinnati, which upheld the doctor’s sentence, released this statement:
“There is sufficient evidence to show that this man was hardly the blissfully-ignorant doctor he now makes himself out to be. A rational trier of fact can easily conclude that the entire enterprise of dispensing pills straight from the clinic was Volkman’s brainchild. That same trier of fact can determine it was highly unlikely that Volkman – a man who prided himself on knowing the inner workings of his clinic – was unaware of the clinic’s drug profits.”
The 6th Circuit panel agreed to review Volkman’s case, but reaffirmed his conviction last week, ruling that a reasonable jury could have found that Volkman’s prescriptions of oxycodone to patients had no legitimate medical purpose, and were the cause of each of their deaths.
Here’s another look at this case: