GOP Lawmaker Cops To Prescribing Opioids To Second Cousin Who Was Also His Lover

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Tennessee state Sen. Joey Hensley, a small town doctor, is accused of writing opioid prescriptions for family members.

Tennessee state Sen. Joey Hensley (R), who is also a small town doctor, came under investigation last year by the Tennessee Department of Health over allegations that he prescribed opioids to family members — one of whom was both his second cousin and romantic partner — in violation of medical ethics.

The Tennessean reported Monday that Hensley’s attorney, David Steed, conceded during opening arguments in a medical discipline proceeding that Hensley did in fact write the prescriptions; however, “Steed said it was well-intentioned, harmless and all but unavoidable for Hensley to prescribe to relatives in a small Tennessee town where he is the only available doctor.”

Steed confirmed Hensley twice prescribed an opioid painkiller to a nurse at his clinic with whom he was in a romantic relationship.

“There are not many people in the county who haven’t been to see Dr. Hensley, and she was one of them,” Steed said, adding a moment later, “Half of the county are Hensleys. Everyone there knows everyone. There were multiple relationships and the physician-patient relationship was only one and somewhat incidental to the others.”

  • The nurse Hensley prescribed opioids for was identified as his second cousin “during sworn testimony in a scandalous divorce proceeding” in 2017, as Hensley’s marriage was dissolved.
  • Hensley wrote the woman at least 47 prescriptions for controlled substances from 2011 to 2018 without requiring that she undergo drug tests to prevent abuse, a Tennessee Department of Health investigator testified on Monday.
  • Investigator Brandi Blair also testified that the GOP lawmaker did not properly document the prescriptions in the nurse’s medical records.

Hensley, R-Hohenwald, is a family doctor in the same town he represents, which has about 3,700 residents in Lewis County. State health officials filed professional licensing charges last year alleging Hensley violated medical standards over a span of several years by prescribing controlled substances to family members and a romantic partner.

Doctors are largely forbidden from treating or prescribing drugs to family members or romantic partners because these relationships can obscure a physician's judgement and complicate or hamper care.

  • The Tennessean noted that the charges against Hensley are not criminal but “could impact his ability to treat patients or prescribe drugs.”
  • The state attorney prosecuting the case has “asked the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to put Hensley on professional probation for three years and require him to attend classes on safe prescribing and medical ethics.”

Read the full report.


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