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The Boston Globe
Psychiatrist gets 1-year sentence
By Judy Rakowsky
November 22, 1996

Psychiatrist Christopher Rowland

Psychiatrist Christopher Rowland

A Jamaica Plain psychiatrist was sentenced to a year’s home confinement yesterday after admitting he prescribed addictive medication to drug-dependent patients, one of whom died of an overdose of heroin and tranquilizers within days of filling his last prescription.

Christopher V. Rowland, 62, pleaded guilty in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham to writing illegal prescriptions and also agreed to forfeit his medical license.

But relatives of James Romano, who had asked the Board of Registration in Medicine to stop Rowland from writing him what they feared would be lethal prescriptions, voiced anger and disappointment at the sentence.

“He won; he got a sentence he was comfortable with,” said Marie Romano of Brighton. “He’s going to spend the holidays with his family and we’re not going to have my brother here.”

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Butler meted out the home confinement sentence after noting that Rowland was not charged with Romano’s death.

Prosecutors had sought a two-year sentence for Rowland on Medicaid fraud and illegal prescription charges because the heroin in Romano’s system at the time of his death precluded a manslaughter charge, said Assistant Attorney General Peter Clark.

James Romano was drug-free when he went to see Rowland “in good faith” in 1994, seeking help with depression, Marie Romano said.

Romano’s younger brother, Stephen, had called Rowland’s office after James overmedicated himself and was hospitalized.

“My brother said if you keep prescribing drugs like this you’ll kill him,” said Marie Romano. The warnings went unheeded, she said.

The Romano family then asked the Board of Registraton in Medicine to pull Rowland’s medical license. An investigation was opened, but no action was taken against Rowland until after Romano overdosed in March 1995.

“He got early retirement,” said Marie Romano, whose family is pursuing a civil lawsuit against Rowland.

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Christopher Rowland