Doctor Accused in Overdose Deaths Pleads Guilty

Former Oklahoma City doctor William Valuck, 71, made headlines late last year when he was arrested in Texas and charged with nine counts of first degree murder and 73 counts of illegal distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Valuck was accused of overprescribing prescription drugs, including highly addictive and powerful narcotic painkillers, and of illegally prescribing drugs without actually physically examining the patients as required by law. Most of Valuck's patients were prescribed a combination of hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller; alprazolam, and anti-anxiety drug; and carisoprodol, a muscle relaxer. Valuck's murder charges came after eight patients died of drug overdoses--some within only a day or two of receiving a prescription from Dr. Valuck. The ninth charge, which was ultimately dismissed, was related to a traffic fatality in an accident caused by one of Valuck's patients who was under the influence of prescription drugs. Last week, the former doctor accepted a plea deal which significantly reduced the penalties he was facing for the first degree murder charges and the multiple drug distribution charges. Valuck pleaded guilty to eight counts of second degree murder, and the remaining charges were dismissed. He was sentenced to one year in prison for each murder count, bringing the total to 8 years. Because second degree murder is one of Oklahoma's 85 percent crimes, the former physician will have to spend nearly 7 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. Oklahoma First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland told reporters that prosecutors would ordinarily find a sentence of 8 years for 8 homicides much too light. However, given Valuck's age and the length of time a trial would have taken, eight years could reasonably be considered a life sentence anyway:

"There aren’t very many cases in this world that I would even consider a single-digit sentence for any sort of homicide. Realistically, we’re talking about pleading to most or all of the remaining years that he has left. So, in this case, we felt like eight years in prison was just.

On the flip side, the family gets immediacy, finality. They don’t have to worry about picking up the newspaper every morning for the next few years to see if some appellate court has reversed a jury’s sentence. They don’t have to go through the arduous agony of a jury trial, and perhaps most of all, they get this justice quickly."

 At the time of his arrest, investigators said that Valuck was the largest prescriber of controlled substances in the state. They said that prior to his arrest in 2013, he was on track to prescribe more than 3.5 million pills, and that his name became so well-known for loose prescriptions that many pharmacies refused to fill his prescriptions.

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