Christian Hageseth III Charged With Felony

Colo. Doctor Charged In Web Prescription Flap

CBS4, Denver
November 29, 2007

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) A Colorado doctor has been arrested in California, facing felony charges for prescribing medicine over the internet.

Officials said Fort Collins psychiatrist, Dr. Christian Hageseth, apparently knew nothing about the patient before prescribing Prozac, an antidepressant. The patient later committed suicide.

The criminal charges against Hageseth are not related to the patient’s death, but he faces civil charges for that. The criminal charges are based on a violation of California law, but both California and Colorado regulators say when it comes to the internet, the boundary lines are hard to draw.

The patient, John McKay, was a student at Stanford University. He committed suicide two years ago after buying Prozac from an online pharmacy. Studies have shown the drug can lead to suicidal thoughts and patients should be monitored.

Hageseth was the doctor who approved the online prescription, but he never met or talked to McKay.

“Prescribing medication is practicing medicine,” San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. “You can’t do that in this state if you’re not licensed by this state, and he is not licensed by the State of California.”

Hageseth’s attorney argues that’s not true.

“He ‘e-prescribed.’ He wrote an e-prescription in Colorado and uploaded it to a server in Texas,” attorney Carl Briggs said.

“A Colorado doctor is using a server in Texas to get meds to a kid in California; those are very difficult lines to trace back through, so it is a concern to the Board of Pharmacy,” Chris Lines with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies said.

Hageseth also violated Colorado rules.

“There has to be a preexisting patient practitioner relationship to be in compliance with the regulations as they are,” Lines said.

However, regulators admit right now, there’s no good way to make sure doctors are following the rules on the internet. It’s a concern for in every state in the U.S.

“I think everyone would like a precedent set where everyone’s needs were met and everyone was protected,” Lines said. “The internet opens up a whole new series of freedom of speech questions and freedom of activity questions that at this point, it doesn’t seem we’re prepared to deal with.”

For now, it’s one case at a time, which will begin to set a precedent. All eyes are on this case, including those of the patient’s father, David McKay, who is also suing Hageseth.

“I would hope it would send a message to those who are operating illegally that they will be held accountable,” McKay said.

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.

Hageseth was extradited to California and is being held on a $500,000 bond.

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