6th June 19:34
Dangerous history can't stop surgeon Lawsuits & addictions plague hiscareer (morphine psychotherapy down liposuction lips)
Dangerous history can't stop surgeon Lawsuits & addictions plague his
By WILLIAM SHERMAN DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Paul Rosenberg is a plastic
surgeon with impeccable professional credentials, and the details are on
his voluminous, full-color Web site.
His resume includes an Ivy League undergraduate and medical school
education, training at the finest hospitals and numerous articles in
Tummy tucks, breast lifts and implants, liposuction and cosmetic work on
the eyes, chin, lips, nose - Rosenberg does those procedures and more.
He provides examples of his work and glowing patient testimonials on the
But what's not on the site - and extremely difficult even for
knowledgeable consumers and potential patients to find - is the rest of
the doctor's record.
Rosenberg, 43, has a history of recurring drug addiction, according to
his own admissions to state medical regulators beginning more than 10
Medical malpractice suits against him include allegations and testimony
that he routinely operated on patients while in a drug-induced stupor.
Morphine and the morphine derivative Dilaudid were his drugs of choice,
according to court records and New York and New Jersey regulatory
A highly addictive painkiller, Dilaudid also diminishes consciousness,
alertness, awareness and critical-thinking skills.
Rosenberg also injected himself with propofol, a fast-acting
sedative-hypnotic that is used as an anesthetic, according to regulatory
do***ents and testimony by Anna Oramas, his former office manager who
was also his long-time live-in girlfriend.
He would shoot up drugs "every few hours," Monday through Friday, while
he was seeing patients, she said.
Confronted outside office
Patients allegedly suffered severe infections, leaking wounds, scarring,
pain and deformities that required subsequent hospitalization and
corrective surgery, according to malpractice case records.
When confronted outside his Fort Lee, N.J., office last week, Rosenberg
declined comment on specific cases.
"I can't talk about it," he said. "I will tell you one thing, all
medical complications do not amount to malpractice. That's all I'll
But according to allegations, after Rosenberg operated in June 1998 on
Shari Peluso, a silicone breast implant emerged from an open, infected
wound surrounded by dead tissue.
Rosenberg also refused to give Peluso her medical records, saying they
weren't in his office, even though they were there, according to
testimony from an employee whom court records identify only by a
While Peluso was in his office that day, Rosenberg began altering her
records, said the employee.
The employee quoted the doctor as saying, "Get me the file because I
need to go over it and see what I can do because I think, quote,
unquote, this bimbo is going to try and sue me."
In the past two years, Rosenberg and his insurer have settled three
malpractice cases, including Peluso's, with six-figure payments to
Total payments have exceeded $1 million, although the exact amounts in
each case are not known because of confidentiality agreements signed by
the lawyers and patients.
A fourth malpractice case is scheduled for trial in November, and a
fifth case, which also involves consumer fraud, was filed in the spring
and is in the early stages of litigation.
Rosenberg has been allowed to practice continuously in New York or New
Jersey since 1987, except for a five-month period ending Jan. 29, 2001,
when his New Jersey license was suspended. He had relapsed into
addiction and failed a drug test.
Because of New Jersey's action, New York suspended Rosenberg's license,
but he is now eligible for reinstatement.
Rosenberg is allowed to practice in New Jersey because he is meeting the
requirements of that state's Board of Medical Examiners, according to
spokeswoman Genene Morris.
They include twice-weekly drug tests, continuing psychotherapy and
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Rosenberg's record comes to light nearly three years after a Daily News
investigative series prompted authorities to heighten scrutiny on
physicians with extensive cases of malpractice.
His practice also raises questions about communication among state
authorities about physicians' behavior: At one point, although
Rosenberg's license was suspended in New Jersey, he was allowed to
practice in New York.
"We have a system of reciprocity, but we are not obligated to go follow
another state's action," said a spokeswoman for the state Health
Department. "We do our own investigations."
At various times during his 16-year medical career, Rosenberg has had
79th St. between Park and Madison Aves., in Ardsley, Westchester County,
and in Fort Lee, where he maintains a practice that is generally fully
booked, according to a secretary.
He has a staff of seven, including a full-time anesthesiologist.
Outside his Palisade Ave. offices in Fort Lee one morning last week,
Rosenberg froze when asked by a reporter about his record.
"I don't know, I just don't know," he said. "How did you find out about
me? How did you find out about those [malpractice] cases?"
When asked why a physician with his credentials would turn to drugs and
then operate on patients, Rosenberg trembled and looked away. "I can't
comment, I don't know," he said.
In court papers, Oramas said she and Rosenberg "became drug addicts of
one kind of another beginning in 1991-1992."
Oramas said she was an employee of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical
Center - now the New York-Presbyterian Hospital - and he was a surgical
resident there when they met the year before.
When he went into private practice, she joined his office staff, Oramas
said, adding that they used narcotics extensively through 1998. After
that, their personal relationship ended.
Two lawyers who have represented Rosenberg in his malpractice suits also
declined comment, citing confidentiality.
During their defense of Rosenberg, several lawyers argued he should not
be held accountable for his actions because he was under the influence
of drugs and was psychologically impaired.
It is unclear whether medical regulatory authorities in New York and New
Jersey, where Rosenberg has been licensed, are familiar with the
doctor's malpractice case history, despite court records publicly on
file in four counties.
Spokesmen for New York and New Jersey authorities declined comment on
whether they have investigated the physician's malpractice case record.
For the public, however, Rosenberg's malpractice, narcotics history and
state disciplinary records are generally not available, except for those
who know the names of patients and are willing to hunt down court
Because Rosenberg's license is suspended in New York, there is no
information at all on him in the state Health Department's online
physician directory, established as a result of The News' probe three
New Jersey has no such public resource, although a bill calling for the
establishment of malpractice-record disclosure was passed by the state
Legislature in June. "It will be effective next June, but it hasn't been
decided what form it will take," said Morris.
Highs and lows
- 1982 - Graduates from University of Pennsylvania.
- 1986 - Graduates from University of Pennsylvania medical school.
- 1987-91 - Internship at North Shore University Hospital; residency in
plastic surgery, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center (now New
York-Presbyterian Hospital); chief resident, Memorial Sloan-Kettering
- 1992 - Opens offices in Fort Lee, N.J., then in Manhattan and
- 1993 - New York State Health Department charges Rosenberg with gross
negligence, gross incompetence and fraud for his use of narcotics. He
admits guilt to the first two charges. New York and New Jersey place him
on probation and let him continue practicing.
- June 1997 - Gina Lydecker allegedly suffers infections, scarring,
intestinal damage and other problems after liposuction and breast
augmentation. Case settled before trial.
- May 1998 - Regina DeMatteo allegedly suffers disfiguring scars and
other problems after breast augmentation. Case settled before trial.
- May 1998 - Marlene Brenner allegedly suffers scarring, wounds,
infections and other problems after breast augmentation. Case scheduled
for trial this fall.
- June 1998 - Shari Peluso allegedly suffers severe open wounds,
scarring and other problems after breast augmentation. Case settled
- February 1999 - After completing a 10-week rehabilitation program for
addiction, Rosenberg tests positive for narcotics, according to New
Jersey officials. He is allowed to continue practicing in New Jersey and
- Aug. 28, 2000 - Rosenberg's license is suspended in New Jersey. He
completes three-week inpatient drug treatment program and begins
rigorous outpatient regimen.
- Jan. 29, 2001 - Rosenberg's New Jersey license is reinstated under
continuous monitoring. He is barred from prescribing controlled
- March 19, 2001 - New York authorities suspend Rosenberg's license for
one year, citing the New Jersey suspension.
- April 11, 2002 - New Jersey allows Rosenberg to prescribe some
controlled dangerous substances necessary for patient care.
- April 27, 2003 - Juana Pineda sues Rosenberg, charging defective
liposuction and breast augmentation. Case pending.
- June 24 - New Jersey lifts all restrictions, citing Rosenberg's
"long-term sobriety and ability to safely practice medicine."
- Today - Rosenberg is eligible but has yet to apply for license
reinstatement in New York.
Originally published on September 27, 2003