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Calif. doctor sentenced for prescriptions that left three dead

LOS ANGELES --A doctor convicted of murder for prescribing exorbitant amounts of painkillers that left three patients dead has been sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.

Dr. Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng was sentenced Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Her second-degree murder conviction in October is rare for a doctor.

Tseng was accused of causing multiple patients' deaths and was charged with only three killings because other factors were involved in some of those deaths, such as drugs prescribed by other doctors and one possible suicide.

Tseng's lawyer said the doctor had been naive to prescribe so many medications and didn't think her patients would abuse them. Prosecutors say she prescribed medication to people who didn't need it and ignored signs they were overdosing.

"The defendant was repeatedly notified by law enforcement that her patients were dying on her," L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Niederman said during the trial.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tseng wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period -- an average of 25 per day. She and her husband operated out of a storefront medical clinic. The prosecution said the busy practice was highly lucrative, with the doctor handing out prescriptions after appointments that sometimes lasted just three minutes.

Tseng pleaded not guilty. The defense said the patients who overdosed lied to get prescriptions.

"All of three of them took large amounts of drugs that were far in excess of what was prescribed," Tseng's defense lawyer Tracy Green said.

One of the victims, Joey Rovero, was 21 when he died. His mother hoped the case would set a precedent.

"We're basically talking about my son having been given a loaded weapon as he left that doctors office," April Rovero said. "Without those medications in hand, he, I don't believe, would be dead."

While Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering a lethal overdose of the prescription drug Propofol to singer Michael Jackson, charging doctors with murder in connection with prescriptions is rare.