Indicted doctor linked to drug-related death of Henderson judge
Court records suggest a Las Vegas physician, indicted earlier this month on health-care fraud charges, may have been the doctor who provided fentanyl to Henderson Municipal Court Judge Diana Hampton just prior to her death in March 2016.
The federal indictment, against 66-year old Dr. Steven Holper, alleges the M.D. illegally prescribed the powerful painkiller fentanyl to a number of patients who should not have been given the drug because they were not cancer patients with extreme pain who also had developed a tolerance for other, less powerful opioids.
According to the indictment, one person, identified only as “Patient A,” died after obtaining fentanyl illegally from Holper on Saturday, March 12, 2016. Judge Hampton died from causes that included fentanyl intoxication that same weekend. Police, conducting a welfare check, found Hampton’s body in her Henderson home March 13, which is consistent with her dying on the 12th but not being found until the next day.
According to the Clark County coroner’s office, Hampton’s was the only fentanyl related death reported that weekend. “I can confirm she (Hampton) was a patient of his,” said Officer Scott Williams of the Henderson Police department. “But I don’t know if she’s referenced in the indictment.”
The U.S. attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Holper, did not immediately respond to an email requesting confirmation that Patient A was the late Judge Hampton. But the fact that Hampton was Holper’s patient, that fentanyl intoxication led to her death, and that her death was the only one that weekend related to fentanyl all strongly suggest Hampton was Patient A.
The indictment indicates Patient A originally had a prescription for fentanyl from Dr. Holper until June 2015. After that time, Holper is alleged to have given Patient A used fentanyl spray canisters that contained residual amounts of the drug. The canisters are referred to by their brand name, Subsys, in the indictment. “Patient A used a small tool to open the Subsys canister sprays to access the remaining fentanyl,” the indictment alleges. “Patient A then used a syringe to inject the fentanyl into his/her arm.”
Hampton had necrotizing cellulitis, a severe infection, in her arm at the time of her death. That kind of infection can often start at the site of a needle puncture.
On March 12, 2016, the indictment alleges, “Patient A retrieved used Subsys canisters from Defendant Holper’s residence in the late morning. Later the day, Patient A died.” The indictment says the amount of fentanyl in Patient A’s system was four times the level that can cause death.
“Hundreds of canisters of Subsys fentanyl sprays were found in and around Patient A’s bedroom, bathroom, workplace and vehicle after Patient A’s death,” the indictment says. “If Patient A had not used remaining fentanyl from the used Subsys canisters Patient A received from Defendant Holper, Patient A would not have died when he/she did.”
A call to Dr. Holper’s office for comment was fielded by his answering service. The person on the phone said Dr. Holper’s medical office was closed until further notice, and his service was not taking messages.