Chris Arthur Christensen, MD, 68, of Florence, Montana, is scheduled for trial this October. He was indicted in August, 2015 with two counts of negligent homicide due to prescription drug overdose, nine counts of criminal endangerment, and 389 counts of illegal distribution of drugs, a total of 400 felony counts. This simple statement shows why doctors are being attacked, and the lengths the government will go to achieve their goal. Anyone who has had to deal with government prosecutors knows that their thinking when going after a weak case is to create as many charges as possible, so that hopefully some of them will stick. Four hundred counts is a little overkill. But they have to make him look like a monster. Let’s hope the jury sees through the smoke screen.
“This arrest comes at the end of two years of very hard, technical investigation. We expect to continue doing our business for some time to come.”
In fact, a Tactical Diversion Squad was formed comprised of members from the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. This shows another reason why they do what they do. The investigation is job security for law enforcement, including annual salaries for a half-dozen government employees at the US Attorney’s office and DEA. I was told that my case afforded 6 people annual salaries for 2 years. That’s a good reason to attack doctors. DEA Agent Barbara Roach admitted that this was the first criminal prosecution of its kind in the state of Montana. It is important that this trend be stopped in its tracks, or more doctors will get the same treatment. They probably already have another doctor targeted.
Dr. Christensen has been hounded by the government for years for pain management, starting in 1998. He went through all the usual attacks and survived. This case shows how the government is now pitting one medical profession against another. The investigation which led to Dr. Christensen’s current charges started in 2012 with a pharmacist refusing to fill a patient’s prescription. The Board of Pharmacy then filed a complaint against Christensen that the prescriptions had not been issued “in the course of a legitimate or reputable professional practice”. Of course, the boards, both medical and pharmacy, are really in cahoots with the government in attacking anyone treating pain.
The medical board made a number of its “findings” from the investigation public. Michael L. Fanning, a special assistant attorney general with the Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Legal Services stated:
- “The Screening Panel finds that the public health, safety and/or welfare imperatively requires emergency action in this matter.” [standard government-issue statement against any doctor, which means absolutely nothing]
- Christensen’s medical charts demonstrate irresponsible and substandard prescribing of controlled substances.
- Dr. Christensen prescribed dangerous combinations and quantities of drugs which are known to decrease respiration, posing a risk of death to the patient. [The board used specific patient data to come to this conclusion, without understanding the reasons for the treatment. That is the doctor’s decision and no one else’s.]
- Dr. Christensen failed to properly counsel patients on the risks of these drug combinations and quantities and failed to adequately monitor the patients’ use of these drugs.
- His practice was “marked by substandard medical decision-making and judgment, often not performing evaluations on patients complaining of pain and simply prescribing unusually high doses of narcotics.”
- Christensen’s charting and medical records are often illegible and are substandard, and that he failed to document even routine physical examinations and proper histories.
Just to show how they work together, the board released its report 2 days after Dr. Christensen’s office was raided. That should show everyone that the Boards of Medicine in this country are really arms of the government, not independent associations for the self-evaluation of licensed professionals, as they are supposed to be. All Ravalli County Public Health officials did for the government-abandoned patients was issue a warning about the potential of withdrawal and recommend seeing another local primary care doctor if they are experiencing problems.
Dr. Christensen was accused of using painkillers as a “money-maker”. Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black. It’s no crime to run a business to make money, and that is the basis for these government attacks against elderly physicians—to confiscate their assets. Medicine is as much a business as a retail store is. If a physician is willing to stick his neck out in today’s opiaphobic environment and treat pain, why should they be treated any different from any other business? Is Bill Gates being charged with crimes because he is making money? Of course not! So why is it a crime for a doctor to make money? A new patient visit cost $200 and follow-up visits cost $65. Those prices are really reasonable compared to other clinics. It’s no wonder people came from all over Montana and Idaho to his clinic. It also appears that he accepted uninsured patients because of his recommendations for the use of methadone, which is a cheap, generic medication great for the uninsured. The standard government attack cites the fact that Dr. Christensen’s practice was cash-only. “Cash-based pain clinics that do not accept private insurance or government-funded health care are recognized by law enforcement and medical professionals to attract patients seeking to abuse or divert controlled substances,” the report states. But my charge is that the government targeted Dr. Christensen because he treated the “undesirables” in the population—people that the government would just as well see dead, and are achieving that very goal through the disabling of good physicians willing to treat these populations: the elderly, disabled, Medicare, Medicaid, and uninsured.
One of the tricks of the government is to get the physician to agree to charges made by the medical board. Dr. Christensen is no exception. He was offered a reinstatement of his license in May, 2015, if he agreed that:
- He prescribed “excessive amounts” of prescription drugs in some cases.
- He developed pain management plans “not tailored to individuals”
- He failed to “follow up” with some patients.
- He failed to secure his prescription “pads” and some drugs at the clinic.
- He is restricted from treating patients with “opioid” drugs.
- He must abide by “standard care” guidelines.
- He must take a class to improve his record keeping.
Naturally, by agreeing to these stipulations, he has handed the government the ammunition they will then bring into court to use against him. Note that this “agreement” was just months before the government issued the indictment. Personally I consider this technique entrapment—offering a doctor something in exchange for self-incrimination, and then levy charges revolving around those admissions.
As a final evaluation, I find that Dr. Christensen’s only problem is that he is an “old school” physician, trained before the era of computer patient record, where a person’s word is his bond, and there is a level of doctor/patient trust. Most of these older physicians still work with a handwritten chart, have scant documentation, but who know their patients and can determine their needs quickly and efficiently without recording every detail. Granted in today’s world this can be a problem in court. What we need to stress to the public in this case and many others across the country is that any doctor treating a patient in an office with an appointment is exempt from criminal charges based on the intent of the legislation of the Controlled Substance Act.