Montana Doctor Wins Important Case

Montana Doctor Wins Important Case

Editor’s Note: We’ve been following the case since I randomly met Ibsen during the Christmas holidays in 2014 when I was treated at his urgent care practice while I was in Helena visiting my daughter. Here’s our original story:

A Montana emergency room physician who became the face of the pain medication debate in his home state has won a major battle in his effort to keep his medical license. A state hearing examiner says the Montana Board of Medical Examiners did not meet its burden of proof that Dr. Mark Ibsen over-prescribed medication.

The examiner did say that Ibsen’s record keeping needed improvement and recommended some remedial issues, but on the big issue of whether he was over-prescribing, the examiner essentially said no.

Ibsen, who is not a pain physician, told us early this year that he began to treat more pain patients (and thus prescribe more medication) after other doctors in Montana essentially stopped seeing pain patients, particularly those who were using narcotic pain medication. He said he felt they needed and deserved attention. Here’s a blog he wrote for the National Pain Report.

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners has a decision to make whether to continue to pursue action against Ibsen, a decision which media reports indicate will take some time before it’s made.

Ibsen, who is always available for a quote, isn’t at this time. He and his attorney are mum on any reaction to this report. Ibsen has been very critical in the past of the Board of Medical Examiners.

The hearing examiner did propose that the board put Ibsen’s license on probation for 180 days, and take various measures to improve his record keeping. But on the more serious matter of failing to meet standards of care for the patients, the examiner found insufficient evidence.

One of our frequent contributors is Terri Lewis, Ph.D, who is a Montana native and has been following the case. She wrote a thoughtful response in a media report that we will quote here:

“It appears that Dr. Mark has 5-9 files with sloppy record keeping out of several thousand files that are apparently effective. Even within these files, it is possible to discern that the treatment applied was thoughtful and appropriate, that no patients were harmed (but indeed benefited), and that this witch hunt was conducted based on vigilantism of a rogue pharmacist. Thus is the state of chronic pain treatment - where governmental organizations and their self appointed corporate minions act out a mythology promulgated on public hysteria about an epidemic of harm due to overdosing. The 52 pages of the report reflect the mythology associated with the treatment of chronic pain which makes physicians and patients so vulnerable to vigilantism. There is no standard of chronic pain care because no person is the same as another - nor should there be a one size fits all approach. The law has repeatedly interpreted this to reflect what a reasonable physician, armed with the same information and circumstances would do to commence treatment given current practice experience and information. This physician is working for his patients and has built an effective system in a desert of pain care. Good for him. Maybe the good people of MT should help this guy continue to effectively serve the patients that nobody else wants to serve and figure out what he’s doing right. That ‘monitoring money’ would be better spent on helping Dr. Ibsen fund an EHR system because handwriting is being phased out of both school systems and medical records keeping. MT Board of Medical Examiners, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”


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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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This doctor should be the “poster child” & used to show what a doctor SHOULD be & this case should be used as an example of what has gone WRONG in the medical profession!
It is so hard to find a doc. that actually listens & has compassion for what their patient is going through, especially if it is chronic pain. Over the last 40 yrs. I have been to countless docs in 3 different states & while there have been some very good ones, they were far & few between w/ only 1 that came close to this doc.
We all need to support, speak out, & stand up w/ those like Dr. Ibsen, whom are being attacked for doing the job they swore to do!! We must also remind the medical community, that they are NOT Gods to be worshipped & obeyed w/o question!
They should be going after all those that are NOT doing their jobs & breaking their #1 sworn oath of, “Do no harm”!!!

Dr. Ibsen & those like him should be made the rule & standard of healthcare, & NOT the exception!!
THANK YOU Dr. Ibsen for showing us all what a GOOD DOCTOR should be & what a HERO a GOOD MAN can be!!!

There is one more sticky point:
The Board of Medicine scrambled the documents.
Then claimed I keep sloppy records. Then they lied about it.
I am not inclined to take a record keeping course.
I might be willing to take a course on how to avoid vigilante actions by angry board attorneys.
Oh Wait.
That would be law school.

Steve M

It is truly hope inspiring that a doctor has finally received a fair evaluation of their prescribing. Too often, they get steam rolled.

Also, half of a dozen sloppy charts (although complete enough to justify his prescriptions) out of thousands seems impressive, especially for paper charts.

Every now and then - Good will triumph over those that wish to stand in the way of simple human desire to help their fellow man ”

Lets pray that the good doctor is bothered and vilified no more.

Thank you,

John S