Chris Christensen

HAMILTON- Opening arguments began Monday morning in the trial of a former Florence doctor who is facing 22 felony charges, including negligent homicide in the deaths of two patients.

Prosecutors argue that Dr. Chris Christensen prescribed drugs to patients without much discretion, but his defense says that it was the doctor’s compassion that got him into trouble.

The case against Christensen started over three years ago when a task force of local state and federal officers raided the Big Creek Clinic in Florence.

Ravalli County Deputy Attorney Thorin Geist said that Christen was over-prescribing dangerous drugs and that he knew how dangerous those drugs were.

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“First, do no harm,” Geist said. “It is one of the fundamental principles of medicine, and you will hear testimony in this case that when the defendant ignored that principle, when he began writing prescriptions for controlled substances outside the accepted standards of a professional practice, it was the medical professionals of this community and this state that took actions to protect his patients.”

One by one, Geist detailed the charges that are related to eleven of Christensen’s former patients, two of whom are now dead from drug-related incidents.

Christensen’s attorney Josh Van der Wetering argued that the former doctor was not a criminal, but instead, compassionate to a fault.

“The one he doesn’t do, that the other doctors do, is just not treat patients who need help. He is, in the words of his wife, who will also testify since she worked there, he is compassionate to a fault, but that is not a crime,” he said.

Late last week, prosecutors reduced the case from over 300 felonies to just under two dozen, including the two negligent homicide counts.

Testimony in the case started Monday afternoon and is expected to last into mid-November.

-Augusta McDonnell reporting for MTN

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