To prosecutors, he was no different than a street-level drug dealer. Dr. Joseph P. Zolot, a prominent Needham doctor, stands accused of irresponsibly prescribing powerful painkillers, leading to at least six overdose deaths.
But a lawyer for Zolot argued in federal court in Boston Tuesday that his client was a caring doctor who sought the best treatments for his patients in the complicated field of pain management, but may have been duped by some who abused their prescriptions to feed their addiction.
Prosecutors say that Zolot caused the deaths of several patients, though he is not charged in their overdoses. Zolot and nurse Lisa M. Pliner, 54, are charged with conspiracy to violate drug laws and seven counts of illegal drug distribution.
“It’s not just a violation of physicians’ ethical [standards] to give drugs to people who shouldn’t be getting them; it’s a crime, and that’s why we’re here,” Assistant US Attorney Eric P. Christofferson told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday.
But Howard Cooper, Zolot’s lawyer, argued that when Zolot, 64, learned clients were abusing their prescriptions, he terminated his relationship with those patients. “A doctor has to make a good faith medical judgment, and we should defer to that judgment, because he was there,” Cooper told the jury.
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