DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines doctor faces involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly prescribing large amounts of narcotic painkillers to eight patients who fatally overdosed, including a metal band's founder.
Dr. Daniel Baldi appeared Wednesday in Polk County District Court, and a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/Q9pvXx ) reported. Involuntary manslaughter is an aggravated misdemeanor under Iowa law.
One of the eight patients was identified in court papers as Paul Gray, a founder of the band Slipknot. He died of an overdose in 2010 at an Urbandale hotel.
Court documents allege Baldi unintentionally caused Gray's death by writing "high-dose prescription narcotics to a known drug addict" starting on Dec. 27, 2005.
Defense attorney Guy Cook said bringing criminal charges "is wrong" and Baldi would fight the charges.
"It is unprecedented to turn unfortunate deaths or medical results into a crime against a doctor," Cook said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press.
"Unexpected deaths can occur in sever, chronic pain patients unrelated to medical treatment. This is especially true with patients who are drug addicts or drug abusers," Cook said.
Cook said five of the charges involved overdoses of admitted drug addicts, and two charges involved patients seen only once by Baldi.
The Register said Baldi faces four medical malpractice lawsuits, including three wrongful death suits. The three deaths in those lawsuits were among the eight cited in the criminal charges.
The Iowa Board of Medicine filed administrative charges against Baldi last month. The board alleges he prescribed large quantities of narcotics and other addictive drugs without properly assessing patients' needs for the medications.
Baldi helped run an Iowa Health System treatment clinic in Des Moines, which closed at the end of June. Iowa Health officials have said they suspended Baldi from his job. They recently said that they no longer would comment about him, The Register said.
There is increasing national concern about abuse of narcotic painkillers and other prescription drugs.
The Iowa medical examiner's office said last year that drug overdose deaths had jumped by more than 12 times over a decade. The office is seeing more than 100 such deaths per year, including many involving prescription medications. Some of them are suicides, but most are accidents, officials said.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com