Patient death conviction gets former Michigan physician 20 years to life in prison

Bernard Shelton, 66, formerly a physician in St. Clair Shores, Mich., was convicted of a patient's overdose death and on 21 drug distribution charges , the Justice Department said March 31.

Mr. Shelton began prescribing opioids in 2010 to a patient whose pain had previously been treated by prescription strength Motrin, the department said. He prescribed increasingly stronger drugs over the following six years, and the patient became addicted.

On January 14, 2016, Mr. Shelton prescribed an increased dosage of oxycodone to the patient, who suffered an overdose two days after filling the prescription, the department said. They survived, having been administered Narcan.

Four days later, the patient had a second oxycontin overdose and died.

Mr. Shelton prescribed more than 5.5 million doses of controlled substances between April 2013 and December 2016, and more than 2.7 million doses of Schedule II controlled substances including oxycodone and hydrocodone,  the department said. He typically prescribed the types and strengths most valuable on the street.

Over the same time period, he received more than $1.4 million from Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the department said. 

Mr. Shelton will be officially sentenced in July, but based on the jury's verdict, he will serve at least a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, with a maximum sentence of life in prison, the department said.

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