Ex-doctor guilty in Prozac-related suicide

March 9, 2009 at 7:24 PM
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REDWOOD CITY, Calif., March 9 (UPI) -- An ex-doctor has been convicted of prescribing generic Prozac over the Internet to a California college student who later committed suicide, authorities say.

Christian Hageseth, 68, who had practiced in Colorado, pleaded no contest Feb. 24 to a felony count of practicing medicine illegally in the case of John McKay, a 19-year-old Stanford University student who killed himself in August 2005 by inhaling car exhaust fumes at his mother's home in Menlo Park, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday. Hageseth faces up to one year in jail when he is sentenced April 17 in San Mateo County.

The newspaper called the case precedent-setting since county prosecutors in California were allowed to prosecute a doctor in another state for engaging in "telemedicine" without examining or even seeing a patient.

McKay had ordered 90 capsules of fluoxetine, the generic version of the antidepressant Prozac, from usanetrx.com, a Web site in India that in turn forwarded his order to a Texas company, JRB Health Solutions, which then sent it to Hageseth, its physician contact in Fort Collins, Colo.

Hageseth filled the prescription without contacting McKay and sent it back to JRB, which then had a Mississippi pharmacy ship the capsules to McKay.

Traces of the drug and alcohol were found in McKay's system but not at lethal levels.

Steve Wagstaffe, the county's chief deputy district attorney, said Hageseth, who has surrendered his medical license, probably won't spend time behind bars but called the precedent "extremely important."

Hageseth's attorney, Carleton Briggs, called the prosecution a dangerous precedent.

"Never before in the history of the English-speaking world has an out-of-state telemedicine provider been jailed for being unlicensed," Briggs said. "This means that California is purporting to control the Internet."

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