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Indian-origin doctor charged in Anna Nicole death

By Arthur J. Pais
Last updated on: March 13, 2009 19:45 IST
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More than two years after Nicole Anne Smith, the former Playboy model and wife of a Texas oil baron, died of a drug overdose, and over a year since the Los Angeles police had exonerated him, Dr Sandeep Kapoor, a specialist in geriatric and internal medicine, was charged with a conspiracy to furnish drugs to Smith.

Popularly known as Dr Sandy in Los Angeles, Kapoor who was the chief backer of Krishna Kapoor Center for Memory Disorder in Los Angeles named after his paternal grandmother, was arrested last week, along with a psychiatrist and Smith's manager who were also charged with illegally prescribing drugs to her.

Kapoor and the psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich 'repeatedly and excessively furnished thousands of prescription pills to Smith, often for no legitimate medical purpose,' Los Angeles officials said in the complaint filed in the court. Howard K. Stern, the manager and a boyfriend of Smith allegedly passed on the drugs to her.

Kapoor, 40 and his family had vehemently denied wrongdoing by him, telling Rediff India Abroad soon after Smith's death that he had an honourable track record, and the Hippocratic oath had always been on his side.

There were no citations by medical authorities against him, then. His attorney Ellyn Garofalo had said then his treatment of Smith was at all times medically sound and he will continue to co-operate with any formal requests from authorities.

Soon after Smith's death, the celebrity news site TMZ had flashed a picture of Kapoor with Smith, wife of the late oil tycoon J Howard Marshall, at a Los Angeles Gay Pride parade.

The website also claimed that it had obtained documents which show that on August 25, 2006, just 13 days before Smith gave birth to a girl, Kapoor wrote a prescription to her for methadone. A medical examiner's investigation ruled that her death was an accidental overdose. But questions persisted, and apparently the investigation continued.

Kapoor, who was freed on a $20,000 bond, faces at least 10 years in prison if convicted, and possibly the end of his medical career.

Kapoor, a 1996 graduate of Boston University School of Medicine, was god-fearing and wouldn't ever dream of harming even a fly, family members had said. This week they were not responding to any questions, though.

But prosecutors in Los Angeles had nothing but the sternest words for Kapoor and his alleged cohorts. Prosecutors said the doctors gave the drugs to Stern, who then gave them to Smith.

California Attorney General Edmund G Brown, former governor of the state, said in a statement, "The doctors had violated their ethical obligations as physicians, while Stern funnelled highly addictive drugs to Smith."

Investigators said prescription and over-the-counter drugs were found in Smith's system, including three antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

Kapoor, Eroshevich and Stern  were each charged with eight felonies, including conspiring to furnish controlled substances and obtaining fraudulent prescriptions for nearly two and half years to January 2007 -- only weeks before the playmate's death.

"The doctors and Stern devised a plan to use fake names so that Smith could be prescribed thousands of pills," Brown said.

"She was obviously addicted. These doctors had a medical obligation to prescribe medicine in a professional way. Evidence will show this did not happen," Brown added.

Kapoor, who for several years called himself a specialist in entertainment medicine, was born in London to a civil engineer and a clinical psychologist mother. He has been practicing in Los Angeles for a decade.

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Arthur J. Pais