GERMANTOWN, Md. – A former respected oral surgeon, James Ryan, has been found guilty of depraved-heart murder after supplying his girlfriend with addictive anesthesia solutions at their home, leading to her fatal overdose. Now, a Montgomery County judge is set to sentence the defendant.
Prosecutors are seeking a 55-year term, the maximum allowable, while Ryan’s attorneys argue for a sentence in the 18-to-20-year range. The case has sparked a debate over whether Ryan’s actions were driven by a desire to alleviate his girlfriend’s pain or a reckless disregard for her life.
The sentencing hearing, expected to last several hours, will likely include emotional testimony from both sides. The victim, Sarah Harris, died in early 2022 of “ketamine, propofol, and diazepam intoxication,” and the prosecutor has long contended that Ryan’s actions amounted to second-degree murder.
Ryan formerly ran Evolution Oral Surgery and provided Harris with drugs that included propofol, an anesthesia solution that contributed to the 2009 death of Michael Jackson. His attorneys stress that Ryan was trying to treat Harris’s anxiety while keeping her off street drugs and that his judgment was clouded by drug abuse and mental health struggles.
The case has also drawn attention to Harris’s deteriorating condition and the involvement of both parties in the drug use, as detailed in text messages exchanged between the couple. The defense has highlighted the tragic outcome as a result of both individuals’ struggles with addiction and mental health.
In the midst of the legal battle, key questions remain about the responsibilities and consequences faced by medical professionals who provide drugs to their loved ones and the role of personal judgment in such situations.