Who is Thomas K Ballard III? Tennessee doc pleads guilty to opioid overdose death of pregnant woman

Thomas K Ballard pleaded guilty to one count of illegal drug distribution resulting in the death of a pregnant woman in 2015 on June 24


                            Who is Thomas K Ballard III? Tennessee doc pleads guilty to opioid overdose death of pregnant woman
Image used for representation (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

TENNESSEE: A Tennessee doctor is facing 20 years in prison after admitting his role in the overdose death of a pregnant woman he treated. Thomas K Ballard III, 63, was accused of illegally prescribing hydrocodone to multiple female patients with who he reportedly also had inappropriate sexual contact. The doctor pleaded guilty to one count of illegal drug distribution resulting in the death of a pregnant woman in 2015 on Wednesday, June 24.

Ballard owned and operated the Ballard Clinic in Jackson. In a similar incident back in March 2021, a Russian doctor, 30, was accused of raping and murdering a nurse in the hospital lift. A doctor named Jason Campbell, who was also a TikTok sensation, was accused of sexual assault, while also facing a $45M lawsuit in March. In 2018, an Indian doctor was accused of performing a cesarean section on a pregnant woman while in an inebriated state and was responsible for the death of both the woman and the newborn child.

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Federal prosecutors claimed that Ballard wrote prescriptions for dangerous, addictive controlled pharmaceutical drugs without any legitimate medical purpose for several female patients. He was licensed to prescribe opioid medication in 2012. The Department of Justice said in a news release that Ballard also "engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with several female patients while he ignored red flags that they were abusing the medications he prescribed". Prosecutors argued that the abuses were often reflected in Ballard's own medical records, proving that was aware of them but chose to keep prescribing anyway.

In the case for which the doctor was convicted, records showed that the pregnant woman had psychiatric issues, abused her medication and fabricated personal trauma and tampering with drug screens. Her medical records had unusual drug screens, her incarceration record and suboxone receipts from other places to treat the opioid disorder. Despite the numerous warning signs, Ballard continued prescribing her hydrocodone. He wrote the last prescription for her on May 28, 2015, the day the woman died.

The allegations against Ballard came to light in 2019 when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the federal Office of Inspector General raided Ballard's clinic in 2019. Documents found during the raid showed that Ballard prescribed some of his patients large dosages of 'addictive medicines' to treat 'chronic pain' without documenting the pain in their medical records. An investigation concluded that he prescribed around 4.7M pills during an estimated three-year period.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L McQuaid of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in the news release, "Today's plea is a somber reminder of the human cost of illegal prescribing. Above all, physicians are trusted not to harm their patients." Special Agent in Charge J Todd Scott of the DEA's Louisville Division said, "Ballard has proven himself to be nothing more than a predator in a white lab coat, and he should expect to be punished accordingly. Doctors take an oath to first do no harm, and instead, Ballard chose to put his own licentious interests above his patients' well-being." Special Agent in Charge Derrick L Jackson with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General said, "Ballard's callous disregard for the well-being of his patients and the principles of his profession caused the death of a vulnerable woman and put other lives at risk. The damage he caused is severe and irreparable. HHS-OIG, alongside other law enforcement agencies, works to pursue medical professionals who inflict harm on patients in their care."

If the court accepts his plea agreement, Ballard will be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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