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Doctor whose patients died after he illegally dispensed pain pills gets 4 life terms

By Jonathan Bullington, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — A Chicago doctor convicted of illegally dispensing pain pills that led to the deaths of four people in Ohio was sentenced Tuesday to serve four consecutive terms of life in prison.

The sentence was imposed on Paul H. Volkman, 64, who was convicted last May by a federal jury in Cincinnati of illegally prescribing millions of pain medications.

Volkman, a 1974 University of Chicago Medical School graduate, formerly practiced pediatrics in Chicago.

Prosecutors said Volkman created his own dispensary so he could sell for cash pain pills he prescribed. As a result, he was the top physician purchaser of oxycodone in the country from early 2004 through September 2005, distributing “millions of addictive and dangerous controlled substances without any legitimate medical purpose,” they said.

“Volkman did not act as a doctor seeking to treat his patients,” prosecutors said in a court filing. “He acted as a drug dealer seeking to profit from his patients, regardless of the consequences.”

According to the charges, prosecutors contended that at least 12 of Volkman’s patients died between 2003 and 2005 within days of receiving pills from him. The jury convicted him in connection with four of those deaths because he had prescribed “dangerous quantities, dosages and combinations” of pain medications.

Volkman only accepted cash, ignored drug abuse among employees and made patients sign a form swearing they were not members of law enforcement, prosecutors alleged.

In a recent 28-page court filing handwritten by Volkman, he denied the charges, questioned the validity of witnesses and claimed he practiced in accord with a “physician practicing medical pain management,” not a “street corner drug dealer.”

“The appropriate punishment to be delivered to an innocent man in order to satisfy the interests of justice could not be anything in excess of no further punishment beyond the ordeal to which V has already been subjected,” wrote Volkman, who went on to ask for his “immediate release.”

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