Crime & Courts

ER doc: I told Schneider of problems

A Kansas doctor linked to 68 patient deaths showed "incredible gall" by claiming after a 2005 raid of his clinic that he did not know of overdose problems, an emergency room physician testified Wednesday.

The testimony came in the second week of the trial of Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, on charges of unlawfully prescribing painkillers, health care fraud and money laundering.

Brian Katan, the emergency room physician, told jurors he personally spoke to Schneider at least twice a year, and more likely 10 times, between 2002 and 2005 about overdose problems with his patients. He also testified about a conversation he had with Schneider just three days after the raid at his Haysville clinic in which Schneider claimed he was unaware of the problems.

"I expressed to him my total disbelief of any claim of ignorance on his part on these issues," Katan wrote in a Sept. 16, 2005, e-mail to hospital staff about that conversation.

He testified Schneider had shown "incredible gall" in making that assertion. The e-mail also notes that in the days after the raid, Schneider sent all his patients to the emergency room for treatment because the clinic could not see them. Katan asked Schneider not to do that.

Katan said he would not have referred any pain patients to Schneider because, he said, it seemed Schneider's answer was to always give more and more pain medications rather than make any efforts at biofeedback, steroid injections or other treatment.

He also reviewed a government exhibit while on the stand detailing the nearly 100 overdoses and the deaths, calling it an "incredible number."

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway what he would do if these had been his patients, Katan replied, "I would stop doing medicine and go live on an island."

On cross-examination, defense attorney Larry Williamson pointed out that Katan had not claimed until trial that he had spoken to the doctor as many as 10 times annually about the overdoses, noting that the higher number was not brought up in more than 30 pages of grand jury testimony.

The defense also tried to raise doubts about his motives by questioning why Katan did not write an e-mail documenting the conversation until after the raid on Schneider's clinic, hinting the hospital may have been trying to avoid civil liability. Katan denied such a motive, and noted he had talked to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts previously about his concerns.

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