Schneider Says Case Got Out of Hand

See also:
Prosecutors Seek to Shut Up Doctor, Critics – Drug War Chronicle; 2008-04-11
Doctor, Wife Held Incommunicado from Family – Hegeman, AP; 2008-01-10

Stephen Schneider said if the Kansas Board of Healing Arts had conducted its investigation into his Haysville medical clinic swiftly, he might not be facing federal criminal charges.

“I think there have to be some changes made, so things don’t get out of hand like they did with me,” Schneider said Friday morning, following his return home after four months in jail.

dr-schneider-released-on-bondSchneider said that if the board had handled its investigation properly, he might have been exonerated through a medical review, alleviating the need for criminal prosecution.

“I thought that’s the way it was starting out, anyway,” he said.

Citing advice from his lawyer, Schneider declined to discuss specifics of the 34-count federal indictment against him and his wife, Linda, related to their prescribing of painkillers.

But Schneider said he’s confident he could have passed a medical review.

“It took too long,” he said.

The board said the Schneider investigation included multiple patients and complex issues not easily resolved.

But the board’s delay in suspending Schneider’s medical license drew criticism from lawmakers. Its director and general counsel resigned earlier this month, because of Schneider’s and other cases.

The board, which licenses doctors in Kansas, didn’t suspend Schneider’s medical privileges until a month after federal charges were filed.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Board of Healing Arts have differing views on how decisions were made in each agency’s case against Schneider.

The board has said federal prosecutors asked it to halt its investigation until after the criminal case was charged. The U.S. Attorney’s office said it did not ask the board to alter its investigation.

“That’s the impasse we have,” said Kelli Stevens, a lawyer for the board.

Stevens said she could not discuss specifics of the board’s investigation of Schneider.

“But you have to remember that what we do and the criminal case are two different investigations,” Stevens said.

A status conference on further board action on Schneider’s case is set for next month. His trial in the criminal case is scheduled for February 2009.

Schneider also said he felt uncomfortable talking about nearly a dozen civil lawsuits against him. Some of the suits are pending. Five settled cases have become a contention in the criminal proceedings.

Prosecutor Tanya Treadway has subpoenaed the confidential settlements in those cases.

Lawyers for the Schneider Medical Clinic and its insurance carrier have entered the criminal case, arguing that revealing the settlement details would infringe on the doctor’s privacy.

Settlements in two of the cases have paid more than $230,000 from the Kansas Health Care Stabilization Fund. The fund augments private medical malpractice insurance and usually represents only a fraction of the total settlements.

The Eagle obtained amounts the fund paid for Schneider under the Kansas Open Records Act.

The fund paid $75,000 for Schneider to patient Lacie Flickinger.

Flickinger said Schneider failed to properly supervise her and monitor prescriptions he gave her for morphine, fentanyl and other drugs derived from opium. She said she became addicted to the drugs and suffered kidney damage.

The fund also paid $156,250 toward a settlement between Schneider and the family of Patricia Gaskill, who died in June 2005.

Her family alleged that two days after she was admitted to a Wichita emergency room for a drug overdose, she was able to go back to the Schneider clinic and receive prescriptions for powerful narcotics from a physician’s assistant. She died two days later of drug intoxication.

Schneider has practiced family medicine as an osteopath since 1988.

“I’m a family practitioner that helps people in chronic pain,” he said.

Prosecutors had feared that Schneider would abscond to Mexico, where he and his wife have a house.

“That ain’t happening,” Schneider said.

“That’s not even a consideration,” he added. “I want to see this through. I want to show our innocence.”