“Over the course of her activities, she went through in excess of 12,000 hydromorphone pills.” (The court record)
A drug-addicted family practitioner in Canada faces a prison term as the New Year approaches.
It was one year ago when Doctor Sarah Louise McArthur, age 43, confessed to felony charges of Fraud, Drug Theft and Forgery. And this week federal prosecutor Kathleen Nolan announced her office is encouraging the court to mete out a 5-year prison term.
McArthur, who lived in the city of Cambridge, admitted to the crimes, which took place between 2012-2014 after she stated she became addicted to fentanyl, a powerful medication usually prescribed to cancer patients.
McArthur acknowledged that she stole a blank prescription pad from an exam room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, near Ontario. This enabled her to forge other doctors’ names for prescriptions of hydromorphone as well as fentanyl – both of which are painkillers. Fentanyl is nearly 100 times more powerful than morphine, and is delivered via slow-release skin patches.
“Over the course of her activities, she went through in excess of 12,000 hydromorphone pills,” the prosecution said. She took many of the pills herself, and traded many for other drugs.
It is not clear exactly at what point during her heavy drug use she stopped treating patients, so there is no accurate way to determine how many patients she might have treated while under the influence. The court record indicates she had promised to stop practicing medicine in 2012. Her attorney, Mark Parrott, stated said she voluntarily agreed to stop treating patients in 2009.
Some of the theft charges are the result of the doctor fraudulently billing Ontario insurance payers for the prescriptions. Even after her first arrest for prescription fraud in January 2012, and while out on bail, McArthur continued falsifying even more prescriptions.
The doctor’s guilty plea included Possession of hydromorphone for the purpose of Trafficking; Possession of fentanyl; Fraud; Theft under $5,000 and Creating Falsified Documents.
McArthur is expected to be sentenced in January.
“It’s a very serious set of circumstances,” Justice Gary Hearn said.