Jackson doctor pleads guilty in opioid overdose death

Friday, June 25, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 26

MEMPHIS (AP) — A Tennessee doctor has pleaded guilty to causing the overdose death of a patient by illegally prescribing the painkiller hydrocodone, federal prosecutors said.

Thomas K. Ballard III faces 20 years in prison under a plea agreement, the U.S. attorney's office in Memphis said Wednesday. Sentencing is set for Sept. 21.

Ballard was one of 53 medical professionals in the U.S. who were indicted in April 2019 on federal charges related to the illegal prescribing of painkillers.

Ballard, 63, operated the Ballard Clinic in Jackson. Ballard prescribed addictive drugs without any legitimate medical purpose and "engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with several female patients while he ignored red flags that they were abusing the medications he prescribed," the U.S. attorney's office said in a news release.

Ballard ignored one patient's past problems with drugs and psychiatric issues when he prescribed medications for her, including the opioid hydrocodone, prosecutors said.

Ballard issued the patient a hydrocodone prescription in May 2015 — before she fatally overdosed, prosecutors said.