Kansas Doctor Sentenced To Life In Prison For Patient's Opioid Death

Dr. Steven R. Henson was convicted of prescribing what a judge described as “massive amounts of opioids ... with little demonstrated need.”

A Kansas doctor will spend the rest of his life in federal prison after unlawfully prescribing opioid drugs that caused a man’s overdose death, a judge ruled Friday.

Dr. Steven R. Henson, 57, of Wichita, learned his fate after being convicted last year for the 2015 death of his former patient Nick McGovern, according to a Justice Department press release.

Henson was additionally convicted of unlawful prescription drug distribution, presenting false records to investigators, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten, in an order denying Henson’s motion for acquittal on Friday, excoriated him for having prescribed “massive amounts of opioids to patients with little demonstrated need.”

Steven R. Henson, seen after his 2016 arrest, was sentenced to life behind bars on Friday for overprescribing medication that
Steven R. Henson, seen after his 2016 arrest, was sentenced to life behind bars on Friday for overprescribing medication that was blamed for one patient's death.

“There was ample evidence that Henson was prescribing opioid medications in amounts likely to lead to addiction, and in amounts so expensive that the patients would likely be forced by economic circumstances to support their addiction by selling some of the drugs to others,” Marten stated.

U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister expressed hope that Henson’s sentence would be a warning to others like him.

“I want this case to send a message to physicians and the health care community,” he said in a press release. “For any doctors, pharmacists or nurses who disregard their oath and distribute powerful drugs illegally to enrich themselves, the message today is that they will be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by federal law.”

McAllister further highlighted the number of lives that similar prescription drugs have claimed in recent years. 

“We are dealing with an epidemic,” he said. “Nationwide, more than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses. That is more than all the American casualties during the war in Vietnam.”

A federal investigation into Henson’s practice was launched in 2014 after a pharmacist expressed concern that he was overprescribing controlled medications. The investigation determined that drugs were offered to patients for $300 cash, with few questions asked, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Henson had argued that the drugs weren’t prescribed maliciously or for his own economic benefit but done out of concern for his patients, the Eagle reported.

“I only had one goal in life as a physician,” Henson said, “and that was to take excellent care of patients and to increase their functionality.”