Doctor Sentenced To Life In Prison For Patient's Opioid Death

By Kelly Burch 03/12/19

The judge presiding over the trial said that the doctor had an established record of unscrupulous prescribing practices. 

doctor handcuffed after being sentenced to life in prison for patient's death

A Kansas doctor will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was found guilty of writing prescriptions that led to the death of a man in 2015. 

“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 that could end a medical career and send an offender to prison.”

Steven R. Henson was tried in federal court and found guilty of conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs outside the course of medical practice and unlawfully distributing oxycodone, methadone and alprazolam, the use of which resulted in the death of a patient.

He was also found guilty of presenting false patient records to investigators, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

According to KOAM News Now, Henson wrote prescriptions to patients who paid him. He would ask if they were in pain and they would answer “yes,” but he would not ask any other questions or perform an exam. 

In July 2015, one of Henson’s patients, Nick McGovern, overdosed on alprazolam and methadone that had been prescribed by Henson. The judge presiding over the trial said that Henson had an established record of unscrupulous prescribing practices. 

“The defendant kept no medical records, performed no physical examinations or physical tests, gave massive amounts of opioids to patients with little demonstrated need, wrote unneeded, non-controlled prescriptions in order to defeat pharmacy limits on controlled substances, and knew that patients were traveling improbably long distances to receive opioids,” U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten wrote.

“There was ample evidence that Henson was prescribing opioid medications in amounts likely to lead to addiction, and in amounts so expensive that the patients would likely be forced by economic circumstances to support their addiction by selling some of the drugs to others.”

U.S. Attorney McAllister said that prosecuting doctors who abuse their ability to write prescriptions is an important part of confronting the opioid epidemic. 

“The prosecution of cases involving a health professional’s misuse of medical expertise and authority is extremely important to fight the opioid epidemic,” he said. “The vast majority of health care providers are people of integrity who follow their oath to help others, abide by the law, and do all they can to protect patients from becoming addicted. The evidence showed that is not what Dr. Henson did in this case.”

KOAM reported that there was a gasp in the courtroom when the sentence was announced. Henson maintained his innocence. 

"I only had one goal in life as a physician and that is to take excellent care of patients and increase functionality," he said in a statement in court. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.