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Doctor found guilty in prescription drug death

By KSL.com | Posted - Aug 18th, 2011 @ 10:45pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A Brigham City doctor accused of illegally dispensing painkillers to his patients was found not guilty on 46 counts against him but guilty on 40 others, including two related to the death of a 55-year-old man.

The nine-woman, three-man jury deliberated for about 18 hours over two days before reaching the verdict late Thursday in the case against Dewey C. MacKay.


Federal prosecutors painted MacKay as a drug dealer who blindly dispensed highly addictive pain pills without checking patients' personal or medical histories. They say he saw nearly 100 patients some days and ignored information about doctor shopping and drug abuse.

A federal grand jury originally issued a 130-count indictment against MacKay. Prosecutors dropped 44 counts as the four-week trial began in U.S. District Court last month, saying the weight of the remaining charges would not affect any sentence he might receive if found guilty.

Federal prosecutors painted MacKay as a drug dealer who blindly dispensed highly addictive pain pills without checking patients' personal or medical histories. They say he saw nearly 100 patients some days and ignored information about doctor shopping and drug abuse.

"What he did is sold his autograph on those prescriptions for $70 a visit," said assistant U.S. attorney Richard Daynes.

Of the counts for which MacKay was found guilty, counts one and two held the most severe potential sentences. Count one alone carries with it a minimum sentence of 20 years; however, a motion regarding that count has not yet been ruled on by the judge.

MacKay's sentencing was set for Oct. 23.

U.S. attorney Carlie Christensen said the prosecution was pleased with the verdict delivered by the jury. She called the decision "hugely important" and remarked that it is a sad story of a once-distinguished physician going well beyond the limits of right and wrong. She said it sends a message to the medical community about the non-medical use of prescription drugs.

"It's wrong and it's dangerous," she said. "This physician was not exercising medical judgement."


Defense attorneys portrayed MacKay as a caring, compassionate doctor and a pillar of the community who sought to ease the suffering of people in chronic pain. Lawyer Peter Stirba called the case against him a "big con" that lacked evidence needed for a conviction. He said MacKay wrote prescription for justifiable medical purposes.

Between January 2005 and October 2009 MacKay, an orthopedic surgeon, issued 20,612 prescriptions for hydrocodone products, totaling more than 1.9 million pills, prosecutors said. The doctor reportedly issued more than 17,000 prescriptions for oxycodone products, totaling more than 1.5 million pills.

Between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 5, 2008, MacKay had the highest volume of prescriptions for hydrocodone products in the state and the fourth-highest volume for oxycodone prescriptions, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys portrayed MacKay as a caring, compassionate doctor and a pillar of the community who sought to ease the suffering of people in chronic pain. Lawyer Peter Stirba called the case against him a "big con" that lacked evidence needed for a conviction. He said MacKay wrote prescription for justifiable medical purposes.

"If he's prescribing medications for pain, he's not guilty," Stirba said in closing arguments. "That's about as simplistic as I can make this case."

Following the verdict, Stirba said the defense disagrees with the outcome but respects the jury's decision. He would not comment when asked about the possibility of appeal.

"Obviously, Dr. MacKay is very disappointed," Stirba said.

While the jury deliberated Thursday, Stirba filed a motion asking the judge to throw out the case, alleging prosecutors lied during closing arguments. He contends the statements regarding phone calls between MacKay and patient with whom he allegedly had an illicit relationship prevents jurors from fairly and impartially evaluating the evidence.

Prosecuctor Michael Kennedy in his response wrote the allegation carries no factual basis. The judge's instruction to the jury that attorneys' statements or arguments are not evidence cures any misstatements that might have been made, he said.

The judge has yet to rule on the motion for mistrial.

Email:dromboy@ksl.com,Email:benwood@desnews.com

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