A pain management doctor in western Montana has been convicted and sentenced after two of his patients overdosed on opioid medications he prescribed.
Chris Christensen, a doctor from Florence, Montana, was convicted of two counts of negligent homicide for the two patients who died of drug overdoses after taking the medication he prescribed. In addition, he was convicted of 11 counts of drug distribution and 9 counts of criminal endangerment.
Christensen was sentenced to 10 years in prison by District Judge Jeffrey Langton. The judge allowed Christensen to be released based on a $200,000 that was posted earlier. While the Ravalli County Attorney protested Christensen’s release pending the appeal of his convictions, the judge concluded that Christensen was not a risk for flight, and added that since his medical license has been suspended, he is no longer a danger to the public as he cannot prescribe potentially addictive medications any longer.
Christensen’s medical clinic was first raided in 2014, and he was charged in 2015. Part of the reason the case has been delayed so long was due to Christensen’s failure to hire an attorney in a timely fashion. According to Josh Van de Wetering, who is currently providing legal representation for Christensen, the appeal will be filed within the next 2 months, but he estimates it could take at least a year for the case to be reviewed by the Montana Supreme Court.
During the trial, Christensen’s attorney argued that the doctor was simply attempting to mitigate the suffering of his patients, and cited a national hysteria over opioids. However, prosecutors argued that Christensen knew the dangers associated with opioid medications, given that five of his patients died of drug overdoses in Idaho during the 1990s, which prompted Christensen to voluntarily surrender his medical license for 2 years.
Wetering said that Christensen had “regret” about the addiction and death experienced by his patients, but that he did not feel that he was responsible.