Doctor charged in 68 overdose deaths testifies at his own trial

A Kansas doctor charged with contributing to the deaths of 68 patients who overdosed on painkillers took the stand at his own trial yesterday, claiming among other things that he and his staff were "duped" by drug addicts.

According to a 2007 indictment, Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife Linda--who face life in prison if convicted--ran a "pill mill" from 2002 to 2007 that shuffled patients in and out of a Haysville, Kan., clinic within 10 minutes of one another to increase the amount of business received. The indictment accuses Schneider of "unlawfully" allowing his assistants to write prescriptions for Fentanyl, Methadone, Morphine, Oxycodone and various other narcotics. The clinic billed more than $4 million to health benefit programs as a result.

Schneider insisted that his patient numbers were high because his was one of the only area clinics that accepted Medicaid patients. He added that if he really wanted more money, he, too, would have stopped treating Medicaid patients--who brought in $15 to $20 per visit--and focused more on patients with better insurance policies.

Despite a 2005 raid on his clinic by police in which he was questioned, Schneider continued to prescribe the multitude of painkillers to his patients, who continued to overdose and die. When questioned by his attorney why he didn't simply stop treating those patients right then, Schneider said that he would have done so were he "smart."

"I was concerned about out patients," he said. "When patients came in, we just couldn't say 'no' to them."

A comparison made regarding patient deaths for individual doctors found that while 51 of Schneider's patients from 2003 to 2006 died due to accidental drug overdoses, the next greatest number of patient deaths stood at nine--for a doctor treating AIDS patients--according to a press release of the indictment.

For more on this case:
- read this Associated Press article
- check out this Wichita Eagle story
- read this press release from 2007 initially announcing the indictment