Montana Doctor to Seek ‘Medical Asylum’

By Pat Anson, Editor

A doctor whose license was suspended indefinitely by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners for over-prescribing opioids plans to seek “medical asylum” in other states or even overseas.

The Montana medical board issued its 80-page final order suspending Dr. Mark Ibsen’s license on Tuesday, the latest chapter in a three year investigation into Ibsen’s opioid prescribing practices. Ibsen was accused of over-prescribing pain medication to nine patients and keeping inadequate medical records on them, even though investigators did not cite a single case where Ibsen’s practices led to someone’s death or injury. Ibsen disputes the charges and will file an appeal.

(Update: District Court Judge James P. Reynolds on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the Montana Board of Medical Examiners from suspending Ibsen's license for 30 days.)

“I was kind of hoping for a Hail Mary. I was hoping they’d come to their senses, but they didn’t,” Ibsen said.

The board left the door open for Ibsen to someday get his license reinstated if he takes a class on medical record keeping and is under the supervision of another physician. Ibsen says the terms for reinstatement are “impossibly vague” and impractical, but he doesn’t intend to give up medicine.

“I’ll go wherever I can get a license. I’m considering myself a medical refugee and I’m seeking medical asylum, whether it’s in New Zealand or Australia or Canada or one of the United States,” he told Pain News Network.

In May, Ibsen plans to go to India and do volunteer work.

 dr. mark ibsen

dr. mark ibsen

“I do have an agreement to travel with a mission to northern India in Zanskar province, with a group that’s going to help the Dali Lama open up a hospital there,” he said. “I’m going be bringing an ultrasound for them, hopefully train them how to use it, and I’m going to screen kids for congenital heart disease and rheumatic heart disease. There’s a lot of strep infections in that area. And I’ll be doing general medicine.”

Ibsen said he last visited India in 1989 and is not worried about needing a license to practice medicine there.

“I’ll treat the underserved and people who don’t get care anyway. The Indian government is not at the level of regulating licenses of volunteers,” he said.

Ibsen was one of the last doctors in Montana willing to prescribe opioids to new patients and became something of a folk hero in the pain community, treating patients that other doctors had abandoned.

In December, financial problems forced Ibsen to close his Urgent Care Plus clinic in Helena. Since then, various efforts to reopen it under new management have fallen through. Ibsen is not sure what will become of the clinic.

“Right now the business is dead and rotting,” he said.