Montana Doctor Settles Three Malpractice Lawsuits

A Billings, Mont., physician and anesthesiologist who treated patients with chronic pain has recently settled three medical malpractice lawsuits that claimed the doctor’s negligence resulted in death.

Dr. David Healow, who operated a clinic called Pain Control Consultants until it closed in 2006, was accused of prescribing potentially lethal doses of pain medication to at least two patients. He also was accused in one case of failing to properly treat a patient who developed an infection from a pain medication pump that was surgically inserted into his abdomen.

Healow declined to comment about the settlements. Attorney Jon Moyers, who represented all three families in the lawsuits, also declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements in each case.

The first lawsuit was filed in November 2002 by the widow and daughter of 41-year-old Robert “Mike” Wood, a Laurel man who died in December 2000. The lawsuit claimed that Healow surgically inserted a pump and catheters into Wood’s abdomen that pumped pain medication directly into the spine. Wood, who was being treated for back pain, developed an infection that eventually led to meningitis.

Doctors tried to remove five catheters left attached to his spine, but Wood suffered a heart complication during surgery and died the next day. The malpractice lawsuit was settled in March 2004.

A second lawsuit was filed in March 2006 by the widower and three children of a Livingston woman. They said Healow prescribed lethal doses of methadone that eventually led to the death of Christine Kearney in March 2003.

An autopsy by Billings pathologist Dr. Thomas Bennett noted that Kearney, who was being treated for multiple sclerosis and a viral infection, had “very high levels of methadone” in her body when she died and her death “appears to be drug-related.”

The most recent lawsuit against Healow was filed in March by the widow of 31-year-old Steven Webb, of Roundup. The lawsuit claimed that Webb, who died in November 2003, was “prescribed medication in sufficient quantity to cause respiratory and cardiac depression.”

District Judge Susan Watters dismissed the case May 27, 2008, because of the settlement.

According to state records, Healow has been a licensed medical doctor in Montana since 1984. Montana Department of Labor and Industry records show “no adverse information concerning this licensee.”