prison cells

TENNESSEE

A Tennessee physician was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for his unlawful prescribing of opioids that caused the death of one of his patients, according to officials.

According to court documents, Thomas K. Ballard III, 63, of Jackson, a medical doctor, owned and operated the Ballard Clinic, where he prescribed controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

Among other things, Ballard engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with several female patients while he ignored red flags that they were abusing the medications he prescribed.

These abuses were often reflected in Ballard’s own medical records. 

Ballard’s unlawful prescribing to one patient led to her death.

Ballard’s treatment records indicated that he believed the patient had psychiatric issues, overutilized medication, had engaged in manipulation, and fabricated passorted-color book lotersonal trauma.

The records also reflected that the patient had been incarcerated, received prescriptions elsewhere for Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid dependency disorder and that she had abnormal drug testing results, including because of what Ballard believed was tampering.

Nevertheless, Ballard prescribed the patient hydrocodone repeatedly, including on May 28, 2015.

She fatally overdosed on the prescription drug the following day.

On June 23, 2021, Ballard pleaded guilty to one count of illegal drug distribution resulting in death.

“Today’s sentence reflects the gravity of physicians causing death by illegally prescribing opioids,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Loss of life is a tragic outcome of physicians like Ballard acting as drug dealers instead of doctors. Those responsible for fatal overdoses – especially those who are in positions of trust like Ballard – must be held accountable for their roles in the opioid epidemic. This serious criminal conduct requires serious consequences.”

The DEA, HHS-OIG, and TBI investigated the case.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

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