A doctor in Nassau County, New York, has been charged with multiple counts of murder for prescription abuse.
Dr. George Blatti allegedly prescribed massive amounts of opioids and other drugs to patients despite repeated warnings, ultimately killing five patients and endangering the lives of six others, the Nassau County District Attorney said in a press release Thursday.
Blatti, 75, was arraigned on five counts of murder in the second degree and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree on Thursday.
Blatti reportedly pleaded not guilty, CBS News reported. He is scheduled to appear in court again on March 30.
The charges Thursday were consolidated with charges first brought against Blatti in 2019. He voluntarily surrendered his medical license after his arrest that year.
“This doctor’s prescription pad was as lethal as any murder weapon,” DA Madeline Singas said in a statement Thursday, adding that Blatti “showed depraved indifference to human life” as well as “total disregard” for both the law and his ethical obligations.
According to prosecutors, Blatti had no training or specialization in pain treatment and would prescribe medication to patients from a parking lot “with no medical history review or exam.”
Many of Blatti’s patients were “addicted to opioids,” prosecutors said, and he “allegedly prescribed opioid painkillers at patients’ request to individuals he had never met or spoken to.”
Blatti would allegedly bill insurance while accepting cash and avoided using the state’s generally accepted secure electronic prescription system by obtaining a waiver to use paper prescriptions.
According to Thursday’s indictment, Blatti prescribed tens of thousands of opioid pills to the five patients, who later died, over the course of varying numbers of months and years.
The patients, who died between 2016 and 2018, included a 50-year-old woman who suffered from post-surgery pain; a 44-year-old electrician who suffered from back pain; a 55-year-old man whose relatives allegedly begged Blatti to stop prescribing opioids to him; a 31-year-old volunteer firefighter who struggled with addiction; and a 53-year-old woman.
Blatti’s reckless endangerment charges include the five patients who died and six patients who are still living.
In several cases, Blatti was warned by insurers of over-prescribing and asked by patients’ family members to stop feeding into their addictions, the DA’s press release said.
Singas added Thursday that the case against Blatti should serve as a message to other doctors who might be “seeking to profit” off of patients’ addictions.
“As we continue to battle the epidemic of opioid abuse that has ravaged our communities, this prosecution sends a strong message to any doctor seeking to profit from vulnerable patients’ addiction: we will hold you accountable to the greatest extent the law allows.”
“In my nearly 30-year career as a prosecutor, I have never seen a case of such outrageous disregard for human life by a physician,” Singas said.
Newsday reported that Blatti’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Groder, argued that the doctor was not a flight risk, but the judge ordered he be held without bail. Groder could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE.