Judges Reverses Decision to Suspend Helena Doctor’s License

Doctor's license was suspended after a former employee alleged he overprescribed pain medication

By Molly Priddy

HELENA — A state judge reversed a decision by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners to suspend the license of a Helena physician after a former employee alleged he overprescribed pain medication.

District Judge James Reynolds ruled Tuesday the board was wrong to reject the findings of its own hearing officer and made other procedural errors in suspending Dr. Mark Ibsen’s license in March 2016.

Reynolds ordered the board to appoint a new hearing officer to review the case, the Independent Record reports .

Two days after the board suspended Ibsen’s license, Reynolds issued an order restraining the board from enforcing its decision. Attorney John Doubek said Wednesday that Ibsen has been unable to practice medicine because of to the “black mark” on his reputation and license.

Department of Labor spokesman Jake Troyer declined to comment.

The case began in 2013 when an employee Ibsen fired filed a complaint alleging Ibsen over-prescribed opioids for some patients.

In July 2015, a Department of Labor hearing officer found Ibsen prescribed pain medication for legitimate medical reasons and encouraged patients to take lower doses or find other alternatives. The officer, however, found Ibsen kept inadequate medical records.

The Board of Medical Examiners rejected the hearing officer’s report after deciding that the officer they appointed was not competent to make many of the findings because he was not a doctor, Reynolds wrote.

State law requires the board to appoint a hearing examiner “with due regard for the expertise required for the particular matter,” the judge noted.

Reynolds also found the board violated Ibsen’s right to due process when one board member questioned the qualifications of one of Ibsen’s experts while deliberating the case, even though the hearing officer had recognized that person as an expert witness. Ibsen was not allowed to rebut the board member’s comments, Reynolds said.

“I think it’s a pretty sharp rebuke to a decision that was totally off-base,” Doubek said of Tuesday’s ruling.

In September 2015, shortly after the arrest of a Florence doctor who was later convicted of negligent homicide in the overdose deaths of two patients, Ibsen said he would no longer treat chronic pain patients. He closed his practice in December 2015.

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