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Court rejects appeal by Illinois pain-pill doctor

CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal judicial panel on Thursday rejected appeals by a Chicago doctor sentenced to four life terms on charges stemming from the painkiller overdose deaths of four patients, rebuking him for prescribing narcotics to addicts and others.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled 3-0 against Dr. Paul Volkman, who was convicted in Cincinnati last year on federal charges including unlawful distribution of drugs and related counts stemming from pain-pill operations in Ohio. Prosecutors said Volkman dispensed more of the powerful painkiller oxycodone in 2003-2005 than any other U.S. physician.

Volkman's appeal challenged the judge's jury instruction, witness testimony on whether his actions had a legitimate medical purpose, the sufficiency of other evidence against him and whether his sentences were reasonable.

The panel's ruling stated that Volkman violated the prime directive of the medical profession to "first, do no harm," as it upheld his convictions and sentences.

"Paul Volkman breached this sacrosanct tenet when he prescribed narcotics to addicts and individuals with physical, mental and psychological frailties," Circuit Judge Bernice Bouie Donald wrote.

Volkman's attorney, an assistant federal public defender, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The ruling said Volkman's contention that he believed he was serving as "a pain management physician" in fact "turns a blind eye to quite a bit of evidence." The judges said it appears that it was his idea to give out pills directly at his clinics after local physicians began refusing to fill his prescriptions.

"There was sufficient evidence to show that Volkman was hardly the blissfully-ignorant doctor he now makes himself out to be," the ruling said.

Prosecutors in his trial said Volkman made weekly trips from Chicago to three locations in Portsmouth, Ohio, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, and to one in Chillicothe in central Ohio before federal investigators shut down the operations in 2006.


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