A Manchester doctor avoided prison time, but will no longer be able to prescribe opioids after authorities found he was responsible for furthering the Tennessee opioid crisis.
Harrison Yang, a cardiologist in Manchester, was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay $9,500 in fines for his role in supplying the community with opioids.
He appeared on Friday in Chattanooga Federal Court.
Prosecutor Louis Manzo explained why the federal government accepted Yang’s plea deal, which Federal Judge Travis McDonough considered light. In the prosecutor’s words, Yang was a “small fish” who quickly accepted responsibility for his actions.
Unlike many “pill factories,” who exist solely to supply addicts with pills, prosecutor Manzo noted that their undercover visits showed Yang to be an actual doctor who practiced medicine. The prosecutor followed up by saying that while Yang did prescribe opioids he should not have, the cardiologist only prescribed low doses, and always warned the patients of the dangers of the medication.
Yang’s attorney, Bill Ramsey, characterized his client as a kind-hearted yet meek individual. After he was indicted on fraud, healthcare companies such as TennCare and Blue Cross cut ties with the cardiologist. Because of this, most of his prospective patients were no longer able to go to him. Despite this, said his attorney, Yang has continued to serve his community by accepting cash or even working for free.
“He’s a very soft-hearted individual, and he wouldn’t turn them back,” said attorney Ramsey on Yang’s inability to say “no” to persistent addicts, who would be able to “bully” the doctor into prescribing them opioids.
“The best thing for the community is to stop Dr. Yang from prescribing opioids ever again,” said the prosecutor, alluding to part of the plea agreement where Yang must give up his ability to ever prescribe opioids.
When given an opportunity to address the court, Yang allowed his attorney to speak for him. As a native of Taiwan, English is not Yang’s first language.
“He realizes he is too soft-hearted,” said the attorney for Yang, “which is why he is handing over his DEA license, so he can’t (prescribe opioids anymore).”
Federal Judge McDonough then sentenced the cardiologist to three years probation, ordered to pay $61.59 to TennCare as restitution, and a $9,500 fine that Yang must pay using 10 percent of his monthly income. In addition to this, Yang will no longer be allowed to prescribe controlled substances.
“I do appreciate the compassion you show your patients,” said Judge McDonough, “but practicing medicine requires more than compassion. This is a very fortunate outcome for you.”