Kansas doctor sentenced to life in prison for patient death


Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

By Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas doctor was sentenced to life in prison Friday for unlawfully prescribing medication blamed for an overdose death, the latest prosecution in a government crackdown on physicians amid an opioid epidemic.

Steven R. Henson, 57, was immediately taken into custody following sentencing. There was an audible gasp in the packed courtroom when U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten pronounced the life sentence. Henson showed no emotion.

A federal jury convicted the Wichita doctor for the 2015 death of Nick McGovern. Prosecutors alleged McGovern, who received prescriptions from Henson, died of an overdose of the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam and methadone, which is used to wean addicts off heroin.

The government presented evidence at trial that Henson wrote prescriptions in return for cash, postdated prescriptions and wrote them without a medical need or legitimate medical exam. Prosecutors said the doctor prescribed opioid medications in amounts likely to lead to addiction.

This 2016 booking photo released by the Sedgwick County, Kan., jail shows Steven R. Henson.Sedgwick County Jail via AP file

He also was convicted of conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs outside the course of medical practice, unlawfully distributing various prescription drugs, presenting false patient records to investigators, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

His case is the latest in a string of prosecutions across the nation targeting physicians accused of overprescribing opioids.

“I want this case to send a message to physicians and the health care community,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release. “Unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances is a federal crime.”

The National Association of Attorneys General, working under a research grant, found there had been 378 doctors who had been charged or whose cases were resolved by the end of 2016. Of those, U.S. attorneys’ offices charged 249 and state authorities charged 131, its researchers found.

Defense attorney Michael Thompson said his client was disappointed in the sentence and planned to appeal.

“When acting as a physician he always acted with the best interest of patients,” Thompson said.

His attorneys had urged the court to impose the lowest possible sentence, arguing McGovern had ingested far more pills than prescribed on the day he died and had taken other drugs that were not prescribed. They contended Henson did not write a prescription that would have resulted in the death if taken as directed.

Read The Story Here



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here