Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Prosecutors in the trial of Haysville doctor Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, rested their case on Tuesday afternoon.
Wednesday, Dr. Schneider was the first witness to take the stand in his own defense.
Schneider began by telling the jury about his past as a doctor, including how he decided to go into medicine.
Prosecutors have charged the Schneiders with over-prescribing pain medication, resulting in the deaths of dozens of patients. They are also charged with insurance fraud related to the billing practices of their now-closed Haysville clinic.
Schneider told the jury his job as a doctor was to care for patients who came to him in need. Schneider said his clinic saw all sorts of patients, from those with diabetes and heart disease, to allergies and ingrown toe nails. Among the patients were those who suffered from chronic pain.
Schneider said his patient numbers grew to more than 10,000 over the years he was in business. Many followed him from his beginnings as a family practice doctor with Riverside Hospital as early as 1988.
"So you didn't just wake up one day and have 10,000 patients coming through your door," defense attorney Lawrence Williamson asked.
"That's correct," Schneider said.
Schneider denied allegations he ran a "pill mill," in which prosecutors say he wrote prescriptions to patients at their request. Schneider said he always saw patients and talked with them about their condition before making a decision to prescribe any medication.
Schneider also had physicians assistants who were entrusted to do the same. Defense attorneys say some of those who overdosed were seen by the clinic's PAs and not Schneider himself.
Asked why he took on chronic pain patients, Schneider said he believed they needed help. He also accepted Medicaid and Medicare patients, because Schneider believed they "were often among the sickest."
"If you feel like there's a knife in your back, that's all you can think about," Schneider told jurors of chronic pain. "We tried to get the knife out of their back."
"My reason for seeing them was to help," he added. "They were my patients and they relied on me to help them."
Schneider said he did not take on Medicaid and Medicare patients for money, adding he was only paid $20 per visit by the companies.
"If I was just interested in money... I probably would have just focused on the insurance companies that paid better," he said.
Schneider admitted he was "duped" by some patients who came to him under the guise of suffering from chronic pain. Those who abused their prescriptions risked being kicked out of Schneider's pain management programs.
"We tried to eliminate the problems," Schneider said of efforts to monitor patients.
Schneider repeated several times during the course of his testimony that the decisions he made with his patients were intended to help them.
"I'd never have written them another prescription if I'd thought it was going to hurt them," Schneider said."
"It's very sad for anybody to lose their life," Schneider said. "And I feel if there was any opportunity to save their lives and I missed it, I regret that."
Schneider's former Haysville clinic went up for auction on the same day he took the stand in his own defense. Schneider is no longer practicing medicine. He told jurors Wednesday he's now a delivery driver for a local electronics company.
Prosecutors will also be allowed to ask questions of Dr. Schneider. His testimony will continue on Thursday.