Christian Hageseth III goes to jail

Christian Hageseth just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

It seemed certain that things couldn’t get any worse for the Colorado man when he was caught prescribing medications online – in violation of the terms of his restricted medical license – and a California teenager died. The former psychiatrist, who once billed himself as the “compassionate” ECT doc, was finally out of business and surrendered his medical license, admitting he knew he had violated the restrictions.

But Karma – and California prosecutors – weren’t quite done: in October, he was arrested in Nebraska and later extradited to California to face a felony charge of practicing medicine without a license..

After years of scandal and lawsuits that reached theatrical levels, Hageseth lost his Colorado medical license. The licensing board ruled he had violated ethical standards by romancing a patient, which resulted in the destruction of two marriages. He was kicked out of the American Psychiatric Association. He fought to regain his license and won a partial victory: his medical license was reinstated, with severe restrictions. Those restrictions basically limited his practice of medicine to research and he told the board he had accepted a position at a pharmaceutical research clinic.

Apparently the research position did not work out and Hageseth began prescribing medications at an online pharmacy. When quoted in the media after the young man died, he complained that the internet pharmacy was the “last possible thing” he could do in medicine and that he was now poor and unemployed.

Whether he thought he wouldn’t get caught, he misunderstood the terms of his restricted medical license, thought the Internet didn’t count, or in some other way justified his actions in his own mind, only he could possibly know. He likely could have continued to quietly write prescriptions to anonymous patients online had it all not turned deadly in 2005. That’s when he wrote a prescription for Prozac to a depressed teenager he never met.

A year earlier the FDA ordered antidepressant manufacturers to include a “black box warning” on the packaging and issued a public health advisory, warning the medical community of an increased suicide risk in children and teens who take the medications. The advisory stressed the need for “close monitoring of patients as a way of managing the risk of suicidality.”

http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2004/NEW01124.html

The teenager committed suicide after taking the Prozac prescribed by Hageseth.

When attorneys for the young man’s family began investigating the online pharmacy, they discovered Hageseth’s little secret: his license restrictions prohibited him from prescribing medications.

On August 12, 2005, ten days after John McKay committed suicide, Christian Hageseth signed documents with the Colorado licensing board stating that he admitted he prescribed medications via the Internet in violation of the restrictions on his medical license.

The McKays filed suit, and Hageseth was back in the news. Instead of expressing sympathy for the boy’s family, he complained to the media that this was the last job he could get (medically at least – McDonald’s is still hiring), that he was “poor” and “unemployed.”

That would have been the end of the saga, but officials in California, where the young man lived, were not going to let it slide. They filed criminal charges against Hageseth, for practicing medicine without a license.

A legal tug of war insued, with California issuing an arrest warrant, but Hageseth’s attorney fought extradition and Hageseth remained free.

Then he was stopped for speeding in Sidney, Nebraska.

When the police officer checked the computer, he saw the arrest warrant and Hageseth found himself in the Cheyenne County (Nebraska) jail. He was released, then returned to jail until he was extradited to California after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a special request from prosecutors.

Bail was originally set at half a million dollars, then reduced to $250,000. He has apparently been released from jail, though details concerning who paid his bond are not known. According to jail officials, release from jail would have required a non-refundable cash payment of $25,000 or property in the amount of $500,000 being used as bond.

Documents:

Christian Hageseth medical license surrender order

Christian Hageseth medical license restrictions order

Links to legal discussions:

Is it a Crime to Prescribe Medication in Cyberspace?
A California Court Says It May Be, If the Prescriber Is Not Licensed by the Relevant State, and Has Not Met His Patient

Law.com: Web Prescription Tests California Medical License Law

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