A Kansas doctor found liable for the opioid overdose death of a patient has been sentenced to life in prison.
The sentence handed down Friday to Steve Henson, 57, in Wichita Federal Court elicited an audible gasp in the packed courtroom, according to reports.
“I have sentenced people to life before,” Judge Thomas Marten told Henson, according to the Wichita Eagle. “They were people who took guns and shot people.”
The overdose victim, Nick McGovern, 32, went to Henson and was overprescribed the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam and methadone, used to wean addicts off heroin, the jury found. McGovern died in 2015.
“Before you, he wouldn’t even take an aspirin for a headache,” Denise McGovern said to Henson, referring to her son, according to the newspaper. “… He was sent to you by his physician. You made him into an addict.”
The Eagle quoted McGovern’s wife Burgundy Castillo as saying, “No sentence will bring Nick back to us, but if Steven Henson had treated Nick instead of enabling him, he would have still been with us today.”
Henson said he armed himself with a handgun when he saw patients “because of the clientele he deals with,” the paper reported in 2017, citing court documents.
The case against Henson, which also resulted in convictions on other charges, was part of a nationwide crackdown targeting physicians accused of overprescribing opioids.
“We are dealing with an epidemic,” said Wichita U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. “Nationwide, more than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses. That is more than all the American casualties during the war in Vietnam.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.