WICHITA | A Kansas doctor who ran a clinic linked to dozens of overdose deaths was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison while his wife got 33 years in a case the judge said was an “avoidable tragedy motivated by greed.”
Stephen Schneider looked grim and his wife blinked back tears as their sentences were pronounced in U.S. District Court in Wichita. The couple were convicted in June of unlawfully writing prescriptions, health care fraud and money laundering. Jurors convicted them of a moneymaking conspiracy that prosecutors linked to 68 overdose deaths.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot told the Haysville physician that the evidence showed that he earned and deserved the nickname “Schneider the Writer” for his reputation in the community of freely writing scripts.
“For whatever reason, Steven Schneider failed to live up to his oath to do no harm,” Belot said.
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The judge said the doctor was put on every possible notice that the controlled substances he was prescribing, particularly the painkiller Actiq, was addicting patients and did nothing to stop it.
But Belot reserved some of his most scathing comments for Linda Schneider, who he characterized as more culpable for creating and perpetuating the clinic as a generator of income rather than a place for competent medical care. He blamed the doctor for knowing that the clinic was mismanaged and doing nothing to stop the practice.
“Had she not been involved in the operation of the clinic, or had she approached her role in a responsible and professional way, none of us would be here today,” Belot said.
The judge also harshly criticized the New Mexico-based patient advocacy group Pain Relief Network for its public support of the Kansas doctor and his wife, calling the group a “bozo outfit” and a “ship of fools.”
When the people leading it are “so stupid that they support what occurred in this case, they demean the efforts of legitimate medical providers,” the judge said.