Doctor Who Prescribed Over Internet Gets 9 Months
Dr. Christian Hageseth, a Colorado psychiatrist, was sentenced to 9 months in prison today for practicing medicine in California without a license. He prescribed Prozac to a college student in California over the internet after reviewing his online application.
His case is one of the first criminal prosecutions of a practitioner of "telemedicine," the furnishing of medical advice by phone or the Internet, for failing to have a license in the patient's state.
Two months after filling the prescription, the student killed himself. While there were trace amounts of Prozac in his system, it was later determined the prozac did not cause or contribute to his suicide. [More...]
At the time he prescribed the drug, Hageseth was allowed to practice medicine in Colorado and renew drug prescriptions, but he was not allowed to write new prescriptions.
Hageseth's lawyer says:
"Telemedicine is now dead," he said. "No doctor in his or her right mind would now pursue telemedicine unless licensed in all 50 states," which would be prohibitively expensive.
I think he's right, despite the prosecutor's disingenous attempt to makes it seem like they targeted Hageseth because he was an unqualified quack.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ow said the prosecution was targeted at an illegal practitioner who "was not licensed in any state to do what he did."
What she doesn't say:
Hageseth was operating under a restricted license only because of an investigation by the medical board into whether he had an improper relationship with a patient. The patient later became his wife.
While he did have a "restricted" license during the time he prescribed the drug in question, his license was later reinstated .
Hageseth was also working with a restricted license, under investigation for having an improper relationship with a patient. Although those charges were later dropped and his license re-instated, he was not allowed to write prescriptions for anyone during the time he filled McKay's online request.
...At the time he prescribed the drug, Hageseth was allowed to practice medicine in Colorado and renew drug prescriptions, but he was not allowed to write new prescriptions. The Colorado State Board of Medical Examiner's took away his right to practice medicine in 1997 after he married Laurel Burson, who he counseled through a divorce.
The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the board's decision in 2001 and reinstated Hageseth's medical license but still did not allow him to write prescriptions.
The Sheriff in San Mateo disputes the charges had anything to do with his Colorado license:
San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe...said the Feb. 24 prosecution of Hageseth had nothing to do with his licensure status in Colorado but was because he practiced medicine in California without approval from the California Medical Board.
The prosecutor tries to make it sound like this wouldn't happen to another doctor in good standing in their home state, but that rings hollow. I think Hageseth's lawyer is correct....doctors have a lot to fear by engaging in telemedecine.
Here's what Dr. Hageseth has to say.
Right now depressed people still turn to the internet for antidepressant drugs. But they are likely to get drugs manufactured in a foreign country with no review by any medical professional. The need and demand for such prescriptions does not disappear simply by outlawing it in the United States.
Hageseth, who surrendered his license after this investigation began, will serve his sentence in Colorado where he's recovering from heart surgery.
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