AZ Supreme Court Affirms Conviction Phoenix Woman Who Faked Cancer to Obtain an Abortion

PHOENIX -- Today, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of Chalice Renee Zeitner, who was previously sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2016 after she was convicted on fraud, theft and forgery charges. Zeitner obtained a late-term abortion funded by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state Medicaid program, by forging a letter purportedly from a physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, claiming she had cancer and needed the abortion so she could undergo life-saving treatment. Additionally, Zeitner started an online fundraising campaign to raise money for her fake illness. Zeitner was also sentenced for separate charges related to her defrauding a charity for military veterans.

In a unanimous decision authored by Justice John Lopez, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and concluded that the Legislature abrogated the physician-patient privilege to allow for the criminal prosecution of those who engage in AHCCCS fraud. The court reasoned that both the federal and state Medicaid schemes require the disclosure of confidential patient information to assist in the criminal prosecution of those who engage in fraud against the Medicaid system, and, thus, it would be inconsistent with these statutory schemes to allow for the invocation of the physician-patient privilege in such circumstances.

Assistant Attorneys General Scott Blake and Maura Quigley prosecuted the case in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and Assistant Attorney General Michael O’Toole handled the case in the Arizona Supreme Court.