HAMILTON – The fate of a Florence doctor accused of negligent homicide following the deaths of two patients and overprescribing opioids to other patients is now in the hands of a jury.
The defense and the state rested their case on Thursday in the trial of former doctor Chris Christensen after the Ravalli County District Court jury heard a flood of detailed testimony from both sides over the course of several weeks.
Several of the doctor’s former patients testified in court, some telling stories of how their lives were turned upside down by his procedures. Prosecuting attorneys accuse Christensen of overprescribing medications and failing to follow up and ensure the dosages were correct.
Thursday’s closing arguments saw defense attorneys claiming that the state’s prosecution is grasping at straws and that Christensen is innocent. But the prosecution argues the doctor neglected to adequately care for his patients and failed to learn from his mistakes.
“It’s a story of a prosecution gone badly awry that has to turn to smear-jobs. It’s the story of a good doctor, a good human being who treats thousands of patients, nine of whom have come under the gun from the state and will come in and say something sort of bad,” defense attorney Josh Van Der Westering told the jury.
“You are expected to take care of your patient, and the way you take care of your patient is not by handing them opioids the first time and saying ‘there I treated you’,” countered Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright. “You take care of your patient by figuring out what is wrong. He was put on notice. If you do this, people die. He did nothing to change. He did it again. People died.”
Christensen already lost his license to practice medicine in Montana.