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Dr Lisa Tseng: How California doc who killed 14 with 'holy trinity' drug overdose landed in jail for 30 years

Dr Hsiu-Ying Tseng never checked the patient's previous medical record before prescribing the drugs and made $3k daily in cash
Dr Hsiu-Ying 'Lisa' Tseng (Getty Images)
Dr Hsiu-Ying 'Lisa' Tseng (Getty Images)

Dr Hsiu-Ying 'Lisa' Tseng's negligence and reckless behavior had led to the death of Matthew Stavron whose case shone a light on the shocking malpractices of Dr Lisa. She was accused of prescribing vast and unsafe amounts of pain killers which left dozens dead due to overdose.

Matthew Stavron

Stavron had wanted to be a professional motocross racer and like many other athletes, he suffered from multiple serious injuries. The first of such injuries occurred when he was only 13 years old and as a result of the pain, he was given pain medication. Stavron's mother, Kelle, had been worried that he would get addicted to the pain killers as addiction ran in the family. While speaking on Oxygen's documentary series 'License to Kill', Kelle pointed out, "when he hit 18, that injury that he had when he was 13 became a problem. He was in a lot of pain. He was disabled for a year."

"The doctor was upset. He recognized that my son had an addiction. He said that Matthew always wanted more pain medicine," Kelle revealed. His dependence on the medication progressed over the years and Stavron later joined a rehabilitation program. By the age of 24, Kelle said, he was 'thriving'. However, September 16, 2007 changed everything when Kelle woke up to find her son dead behind his locked bathroom door. He was lying on the floor in fetal position and was surrounded by pills.

Kelle said, "I had no idea where he got those pills. I thought he got them off the street. Well, later we found out that he saw a doctor."

Joey Rovero

Joey Rovero had been an Arizona State University senior who died in December 2009. He had overdosed on Xanax and oxycodone. Joey's mother, April, learned how nine days before his death, he had visited Dr Lisa. "He had 90 muscle relaxant pills. He had 90 pills of oxycodone, 30 pills of Xanax, 2-milligram strength, which is the strongest Xanax you can get," April said.

The doctor

The Drug Enforcement Administration along with the Medical Board of California had opened a case against Dr Tseng, five months prior to the Stavron incident. Many chemists and pharmacists had concerns regarding her patients who were purchasing high volumes of prescription pills. 

Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Assistant Head Deputy John Niedermann said in the documentary, "the pharmacists noticed that the number and types of prescriptions being written were enormous, almost outrageous. Over and over, you had seemingly relatively healthy individuals from Riverside County, San Bernardino County all coming to one doctor in Rowland Heights, east of Downtown Los Angeles, Dr Lisa Tseng."

Dr Lisa had started her career by treating a normal range of patients at her Advance Care AAA Medical Clinic. Slowly, as her practice grew, she had majority visits from younger White men who were looking for prescription drugs. In 2008, the authorities sent in 10 undercover investigators to the clinic, all of whom found that Dr Lisa was not following proper procedures such as doing a full review of the patient's documented medical history.

A former Medical Board of California investigator Jennifer Doll said, "now we’re showing a pattern. Now we’re showing bad behavior. She knew she was doing something wrong. In my mind, it solidified that she was not just practicing bad medicine, she was hurting people, and she was dangerous."

Raid and Getting Caught

When the authorities had enough evidence to carry out a search warrant, they conducted a raid of Dr Lisa's medical clinic in August 2010. They were able to get access to various medical records from computers. Niedermann said, "I started clicking through 3,000 patient files, and by the end... I found at least 14 people that in her own notes had overdosed and died."

The authorities also found how Dr Lisa had been making more than $3,000 a day in cash. She had been prescribing muscle relaxants, narcotics, and anti-anxiety medication together. This deadly combination which has been labeled 'the holy trinity' is dangerous and recommended to be prescribed simultaneously as they are counter indicative.


Dr Lisa was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison and was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and more than 20 counts of illegitimately and fraudulently prescribing.  

Oxygen's 'License to Kill' airs on Saturdays at 6/5c.