The music world lost one of its most brilliant minds when Prince was found dead in his studio. The official cause of death by an overdose of Vicodin was quidkly suspected, but was later discovered to be an unlicensed knock-off laced with fentanyl. What remained to be learned, however, was whether any persons who supplied Prince with the unprescribed pills could be held liable for criminal conduct. After much waiting and anticipation, the Minnesota prosecutor recently announced that he would not be seeking charges in Prince’s death. 


An accidental overdose

After a thorough investigation, it was determined that Prince was likely unaware that the medication he was taking was counterfeit and had the potential to be fatal. While those close to him were aware that he was taking medication, they had no idea that he had obtained counterfeit medication. The prosecutor states that he most likely thought he had taken some Vicodin shortly before he was found unresponsive at his Paisley Park estate at the age of 57. 

It was reported that Prince had recently had a significant amount of pain that had caused him to turn to pain medication for the past several years in an effort to get his pain at bay and be able to continue to perform. During the investigation, they had found a number of pain medications throughout the home, though they could not locate many pharmacy containers that they should belong in. At the time, Prince had no active prescription for either Vicodin or fentanyl. 

Why were no charges pursued?

Prosecutor Mertz stated that they had performed an intensive investigation and throughout it were unable to come to a determination as to how Prince had obtained the counterfeit medication that caused his death. He reiterated the fact that the case was extraordinary, tragic, and affected a lot of people, but it did not change the fact the pills Prince overdosed on were not prescribed by a doctor and that there was no sinister motive found that someone gave them to him to cause his death. In the end, it is another tragic case of how pain medication dependence and addiction can affect anyone no matter their demographic or social status. 

In an even more tragic twist to the story, it was discovered that Prince had sought out treatment by Dr. Michael Schulenberg for anemia, fatigue, and opioid withdrawal, which showed that Prince was aware of a problem and was, in fact, seeking help. While Schulenberg did not face any criminal charges in his death, he did settle for a federal violation of illegally prescribing an opioid painkiller for Prince just a week before his death. His attorneys reiterated the fact that he was not found liable in any way for Prince’s death and ultimately chose to settle to avoid the cost, delay, and unknown outcome of costly legal litigation.  

While legally the prosecutor had no evidence or suspect to file charges on, many are not happy with the decision. Prince’s drummer and cousin stated his unhappiness, and while he believed that the investigators in the case did their due diligence, he feels that ultimately someone should be held accountable for his cousin tragic death. 

Opioid overdose is a growing concern in the country and is not only causing alarm as the death toll continues to arise but also with the potential for criminal charges and litigation that can be filed against doctors and individuals found responsible for contributing or prescribing the medication that results in death. Stricter enforcement and penalties have prompted many doctors to be more cautious about how they handle pain medication as well as how they treat cases of opioid withdrawal. Unfortunately, even when following protocols and regulations, physicians and medical professionals can still face charges when one of their patients overdoses. If you or a loved one has been charged with contributing to an opioid addiction that results in death, it is vital to seek representation as soon as you can to allow you the chance at the best possible defense.