Physician found not guilty of manslaughter in opioid case

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State Supreme Court Justice Vincent Dinolfo on Friday pronounced Sudipt Deshmukh M.D. not guilty of manslaughter and all other counts brought against him.

Deshmukh, a former Rochester Regional Health internist, is one of two physicians in New York to face manslaughter or murder charges over opioid-related deaths of patients. In addition to the manslaughter charge, he also faced two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and six counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance prescription.

Nassau County physician George Blatti M.D. was charged with five counts of murder in 2021. A judge reduced the charges to manslaughter last year. No verdict has been delivered in that case, court records show. 

A Monroe County grand jury handed up an indictment against Deshmukh in 2021. Charges were brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, who in a statement called Deshmukh’s alleged overprescription of opioids “unconscionable.”

Deshmukh had been cited for overprescribing opioids by the state Health Department in 2019. The department detailed Deshmukh’s treatment of the same two patients that James based her case on. One died of an overdose. The other overcame her opioid addiction and testified for the prosecution during Deshmukh’s two-week bench trial before Dinolfo in March.

Following the 2019 investigation, the Health Department suspended Deshmukh’s license to practice for 36 months. RRH fired Deshmukh in 2020. He had been a member the health system’s Long Pond Internal Medicine Group since 1996.

In a statement at the time of Deshmukh’s trial, RRH said it had “cooperated fully with the investigations of Dr. Deshmukh.” Citing a policy of not commenting on criminal investigations or litigation, the health system declined further comment.  

At Deshmukh’s trial, Margaret Jones, a special assistant attorney general in the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, highlighted records showing that colleagues had voiced concerns over Deshmukh’s treatment of patients and displayed charts showing that levels of opioids Deshmukh prescribed were orders of magnitude higher that recommended levels. Deshmukh’s lawyer, Joseph Damelio, portrayed Deshmukh as a deeply caring physician who acted only with his patients’ best interests at heart.

In remarks in March as the trial wrapped up, Dinolfo raised the possibility that he might consider lesser charges.

Rendering his verdict, Dinolfo said he had instructed himself as if he were charging a jury and had spent weeks poring over reams of evidence and expert-witness testimony presented by both sides as well his own copious notes. In the end, he said, the deciding factor was whether the prosecution had proved Deshmukh’s guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Surrounded by a knot of weeping, congratulatory friends and family in the courthouse corridor, Deshmukh said he was uncertain of whether he would try to return to active medical practice.

For Deshmukh, who faced a possible decade or more in prison had he been convicted, the verdict ended some three years of uncertainty and unwanted attention. Asked where he thought he might go from here, he smiled broadly and replied: “To a cave.”

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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