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The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a local surgeon, Christopher Owens, was arrested last week on suspicion of 99 felony crimes related to prescription opioids. Owens was jailed, but later released and the San Francisco's District Attorney announced on Monday they won't be filing criminal charges yet.
So what put Owens behind bars in the first place, and why is he out?
Owens was a vascular surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, working at the USCF-affiliated Veterans Affairs Medical Center. According to the university, Owens was placed on "investigatory leave" in June of this year and then put on unpaid leave in September. UCSF told the Chronicle it terminated Owens's physician privileges two weeks ago and fired him from the faculty.
Owens was arrested last Thursday by SFPD and booked on suspicion of numerous felonies, including the illegal sale or transfer of narcotics. The Chronicle reported that his bail was set at $1.98 million. At the time, details of the specific accusations against him were murky, and prosecutors declined to file formal charges after Owens's arrest.
As it turns out, any clarity or formal charges may not be coming any time soon. The D.A.'s office said his case remains open, but it had insufficient evidence to charge Owens. It is unclear whether his arrest has any connection to the death of his girlfriend, Danielle Pattillo. In June, Pattillo was found dead from an overdose of the drug GHB (commonly known as the "date rape" drug) in the couple's home.
In a statement, UCSF said "takes this incident very seriously ... and urges its entire clinical staff, including physicians, nurses and other care providers, to be alert for signs of opioid misuse by any member of the clinical team and to report any such suspicions confidentially." The university also said its own police force had been working with the district attorney's office in connection with the opioid investigation.