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Trial Begins for Suspended Doctor [Merrill]

 
Melissa Nelson; Associated Press; 2006-01-11; Posted: 2006-01-13
[Identifier: http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/WOD/MerrillTrialBegins06.htm]
[Related resources: http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/LibPages/WODjournalism-lib.htm]
[Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/state/orl-drugdoc1106jan11,0,6703246.story?coll=orl-news-headlines-]

 
See also:
 
State Suspends Merrill’s License -
David Adlerstein; The Apalachicola Times; 2004-05-13
WAR ON PAIN SUFFERERS archive series - Table of Contents

 

[Adobe PDF version of this article]

PENSACOLA -- An Apalachicola doctor's zeal for prescribing highly addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and hydrocodone caused six of his patients to overdose and die, a federal prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

But Dr. Thomas G. Merrill's attorney, Jim Appleman, said his client's major mistake was placing too much trust in patients who exaggerated their pain to obtain prescriptions.

"The evidence will show that this may -- may -- make a good malpractice case but not a criminal charge," Appleman said.

Merrill, 70, faces a 100-count indictment, including charges of illegally dispensing controlled substances and distributing controlled substances resulting in death. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutor Stephen Kunz said in opening statements that Merrill's practice at the Magnolia Clinic in Apalachicola became a destination for drug seekers throughout Florida.

"The defendant was in essence a drug dealer with an osteopathic license," Kunz said. "He prescribed in quantities and doses that would allow patients to abuse or misuse and in some cases caused their deaths. His patients came from near and far. This is about a physician peddling highly addictive substances in exchange for money."

Merrill, a former military doctor stationed for a time at Tyndall Air Force Base, had worked at the clinic since 1994. The state suspended his license in May 2004 after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began its investigation in early 2003. A federal grand jury indicted him in August. Merrill wrote 33,000 prescriptions from January 2001 to May 2004, and 81 percent of those were for controlled substances, Kunz said.

But Appleman said in his opening remarks there was no way Merrill could have foreseen the deaths of patients who did not follow proper dosing instructions.

"One woman told everyone in her family she was going to commit suicide, and she did, and the government wants to hold Dr. Merrill responsible for her death," Appleman said.

The trial is expected to last a month.

[Adobe PDF version of this article]

[END]

 

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Alexander DeLuca, M.D.

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Originally posted: 2006-01-13

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