Prosecutor grills doctor on trial for 22 felony drug counts
HAMILTON, Mont. - It was an intense afternoon Tuesday as the prosecutor in the drug trial of Dr. Chris Christensen asked tough questions of the doctor.
Christensen is accused of 22 felony drug counts including two negligent homicides of patients who died under his care.
Prosecutor Thorin Geist grilled the doctor on his lack of medical record-keeping and prescribing opioids to patients who had a history of addiction.
He asked Christensen after one of his patients died did he re-evaluate his prescription practices?
"The outcome of any patient I treat," said Christensen, "needs to be taken into account in terms of how I treat other patients."
"So that's a yes," asked Geist. "I would take it as a yes," said Christensen.
He asked the doctor about a defense witness who testified that Christensen was "totally unqualified" to treat the 11 patients involved in the case.
"Do you agree with that?" asked Geist.
"No I don't," answered Christensen.
"My testimony at this point," said Christensen, "is that I had a license as a physician and surgeon in Montana. It was current and it was unrestricted. Period."
Dr. Forest Tennant testified for the defense Monday. He said Christensen was being blamed for prescribing opioids in a time when it was a standard for many doctors, including family doctors, to do so.
Christensen told Geist he didn't accept Tennant's statement that chronic pain should first be treated with non-opioids.
"You tell your patients you're not a pain specialist, right?" asked Geist.
"I believe that is what has been part of what we offer to patients as introductory material, " answered the doctor.
Geist said to Christensen that you told a task force that you don't accept mainstream medicine as fulfilling its mission.
"I think it is failing," said the doctor.
In morning testimony Christensen told defense attorney Josh Van de Wetering that "value and compassion" are disappearing from the health care industry.
"We've become so dependent on technology," he told his attorney, "of compiling reams of information that have little or no value to the patient."
He said after prescribing opioids to one patient she had better ability to parent her children.
Christensen said her life had improved because she was not spending all her time sitting or lying down.
He said the model of his practice was to eliminate third-party payers to bring down costs and to pass savings onto the patient.
The trial is expected to wrap up this week, possibly as early as Thursday.