Robert Weitzel, Utah Psychiatrist, killed five elderly patients by prescribing fatal morphine overdoses

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Contra Costa Times (California)
PSYCHIATRIST DRAWS 15 YEARS IN MORPHINE-OVERDOSE DEATHS
By C.G. Wallace
September 10, 2000

Psychiatrist Robert Weitzel

Psychiatrist Robert Weitzel

FARMINGTON, Utah A psychiatrist who killed five elderly patients by prescribing fatal morphine overdoses was sentenced to 15 years in prison, half the term he had faced.

Dr. Robert Weitzel, 44, was convicted in July of two counts of manslaughter and three counts of negligent homicide.

Judge Thomas Kay sentenced him Friday to two 15-year terms one for each manslaughter count and three one-year terms for the negligent homicide convictions, to be served concurrently. He faced up to 30 years in prison.

As Weitzel was led from the courtroom after his sentencing, he stopped in front of a photographer and defiantly said, “I’m not guilty.”

Weitzel caused the deaths of five patients he was treating for senile dementia in the geriatric-psychiatric unit he ran at the Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton. All five died in 16 days during December 1995 and January 1996.

During the hearing, prosecutors said Weitzel was a pompous man who refused to consult with other doctors and ignored both the law and hospital policies.

“There is no question in my mind that this was a crime of arrogance,” said Davis County Attorney Melvin Wilson.

Weitzel’s attorneys argued during his trial that the patients were terminally ill and he was merely trying to ease their pain in their final moments.

Defense attorney Peter Stirba had asked Kay to impose probation, saying the case could send a negative message to doctors who are ministering to dying patients.

The judge also ordered Weitzel to pay $15,864 in restitution to victims’ families for funeral and burial expenses. The victims were Ennis Alldredge, 85; Ellen Anderson, 91; Mary Crane, 72; Judith Larsen, 93; and Lydia Smith, 90. All had been being treated by Weitzel for senile dementia.

In brief remarks to the court, Weitzel apologized to the victims’ relatives, telling them he believed his actions were “ethically appropriate under the circumstances.”

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Robert Weitzel