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Week Two of the Schneider TrialMarianne Skolek Salem-News.com
A skull and crossbones is a symbol consisting of a human skull and two bones crossed together under the skull. It is generally used as a warning of danger -- usually in regard to poisonous substances.
(WICHITA, Kansas) - Week 2 of the "Pill Mill Doc" trial in Wichita, Kansas ends with testimony from previous employees of the pain clinic, patients and family members and dramatic testimony from an emergency room physician at a local hospital.
Stephen and Linda Schneider, the doctor and his wife who ran the pain clinic, listened to a former patient identified as "Tab" testify that the prescribing practices at the clinic enabled his drug addiction.
When Stephen Schneider's lawyer, Lawrence Williamson, told the witness to stick with the facts and not his opinions, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot admonished Williamson by saying "Well, I want to hear your opinion" to the witness.
"I believe he overwrote my prescriptions, and I could have died many times," Tab said. "I could have died, and to him I'd just been another name on a paper." When a family member complained to Schneider that Tab was overdosing on pain medications, the doctor walked over to Tab and asked him "What'll it be?" Tab says he still has cravings for pain pills and still has back pain -- but he takes Advil now.
Angela Dunnavent, who helped with office billing at the pain clinic, said she put notes in patient files about overdose reports. She also testified that she noticed sometimes those notes would disappear.
Dunnavent and Jamie Hilliard, a medical technician, said Linda Schneider instructed them to falsify records. Hilliard said she saw records from visits that didn't record vital signs of patients during office visits. Linda Schneider, who managed the clinic, told her, "just fill in the blanks," Hilliard testified. One of the employees testified the clinic was seeing patients like "herding sheep".
Both employees were told to falsify medical records to make sure insurance companies paid the clinic. The women said this included filling out patients' vitals information and saying Dr. Schneider had seen patients instead of a physicians assistant. Dunnavent said the Schneiders didn't have much reaction to news patients had overdosed.
Hilliard also told jurors when she left the clinic, Linda Schneider threatened her. She said Schneider told her if Hilliard told anyone what was happening at the clinic, "she'd bring me down with her." Hilliard further testified she quit the clinic in 2004 because "I didn't want to go to jail for what was happening."
Brian Katan, a hospital emergency room physician, told jurors he personally spoke to Schneider at least twice a year, and more likely 10 times, between 2002 and 2005 about overdose problems with his patients. He also testified about a conversation he had with Schneider just three days after the raid at his Haysville clinic in which Schneider claimed he was unaware of the problems.
"I expressed to him my total disbelief of any claim of ignorance on his part on these issues,"Dr. Katan wrote in a September 16, 2005 e-mail to hospital staff about that conversation. Katan referred to Schneider as showing "incredible gall."
Katan testified he would not have referred any pain patients to Schneider because he said, it seemed Schneider's answer was to always give more and more pain medications rather than make any efforts at biofeedback, steroid injections or other treatment.
He also reviewed a government exhibit while on the stand detailing the nearly 100 overdoses and the deaths, calling it an "incredible number."
Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway what he would do if these had been his patients, Dr. Katan replied, "I would stop doing medicine and go live on an island."
The defense tried to raise doubts about Dr. Katan's motives by questioning why he did not write an e-mail documenting the conversation until after the raid on Schneider's clinic -- suggesting the hospital may have been trying to avoid civil liability. Dr. Katan denied such allegations and advised he had talked to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts previously about his concerns.
Prosecutors also presented evidence of the Schneiders' belongings. As part of the conspiracy charges prosecutors filed, money laundering was included. The prosecutors referred to the belongings as "ill-gotten gains." One of the first pictures shown was a bright yellow Hummer - with a skull and cross bones license plate on the front.
Evidently, a license plate of the Grim Reaper as a walking skeleton wearing all black clothing and carrying a scythe was sold out.
This article written as a voice for William M , age 36 died Feb. 4, 2003. Trial resumes Monday morning.
Salem-News.com Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's who pled guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 7-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.
Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.
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