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California doctor gets 30 years to life in landmark overdose case

Reuters logo Reuters 2/5/2016
In this Friday, March 16, 2012, file photo, Dr Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng listens in court during her arraignment, in Los Angeles. Testimony ended Tuesday June 26, 2012, in the three-week preliminary hearing for Tseng, charged with murder in the drug overdose deaths of three of her patients. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File) In this Friday, March 16, 2012, file photo, Dr Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng listens in court during her arraignment, in Los Angeles. Testimony ended Tuesday June 26, 2012, in the three-week preliminary hearing for Tseng, charged with murder in the drug overdose deaths of three of her patients. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

A Southern California doctor was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Friday for over-prescribing drugs that caused the fatal overdose of three patients in a murder case capped by the first conviction of its kind in the United States.

The case against Dr. Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng, 46, comes amid what public health officials describe as a national epidemic of drug abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the trend is fueling nearly 17,000 overdoes deaths annually, as well as a rise in heroin addiction.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury convicted Tseng, an osteopath who specialized in internal medicine, of three counts of second-degree murder after deliberating for nine days in October.

She was also found guilty of 19 counts of unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

Under the sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, Tseng must serve at least 30 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Prosecutors said the conviction, which capped a six-week trial, marked the first time in which a U.S. physician was found guilty of murder for over-prescribing drugs. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Alden Bentley and Alistair Bell)

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