Los Angeles Times

April 18, 2000, Tuesday, Orange County Edition



SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 3; Metro Desk

LENGTH: 713 words

The Medical Board of California has severely disciplined two Orange County doctors, one for having sex with patients and the other for botching liposuction surgery and deceiving patients.
Jeffrey Moran, a Santa Ana psychiatrist, had his license revoked by the board, which found he had sex with a patient in 1995 despite being disciplined for the same offense in 1987.
Gerald K. Greenberg, a Laguna Beach surgeon, had his license suspended for 135 days and was placed on probation for seven years for repeated gross negligence in the treatment of five liposuction patients who contracted a rare infection from surgery in his office in 1997. Some patients suffered disfigurement.
Revocation of a medical license is the ultimate sanction available to the board, officials said. A seven-year probation also is considered a severe punishment.
Moran, who is not practicing, is challenging the board’s decision, made public Monday. He was ordered to reimburse the state $ 49,055 for the costs of the investigation and prosecution.
“I am definitely appealing the case,” Moran said in a telephone interview Monday. He declined to discuss the decision or the circumstances, saying it “may preempt my defense.”
Medical board officials said “it is rare” but not unheard of for the board to have to discipline a doctor for a serious repeat offense.
The sanction was adopted by the medical board based on a decision in February by Administrative Law Judge Alan S. Meth, who heard testimony that Moran and a 30-year-old patient had engaged in sex during therapy sessions at his office, in hotels, in her home, in his home and in her van. Moran also supported the patient by paying her rent, college tuition, a retainer for her divorce attorney and other expenses totaling more than $ 15,000.
At one point, when the woman told Moran’s wife about the relationship and a fight ensued, Moran reportedly lied to sheriff’s deputies in an attempt to have the patient committed involuntarily to a mental hospital.
The judge concluded that Moran had engaged in multiple “boundary violations,” or failure to maintain the required professional detachment from a psychiatric patient.
In recommending the license revocation, Meth noted that within a year of termination of probation in 1993 for having sex with a patient, and despite taking required ethics courses and other continuing education, Moran began a sexual relationship with the second woman.
“He can no longer be entrusted with a license to practice medicine because he represents a substantial danger to the people of this state,” Meth concluded.
Greenberg, who could not be reached for comment Monday, accepted the decision of the board in an agreement negotiated by his attorney and the medical board.
It requires that Greenberg practice under supervision of another physician for three years, pay $ 46,628 in costs associated with his prosecution and probation, take ethics and clinical education courses, and report quarterly to the board about compliance with its order.
Greenberg had been named in three dozen lawsuits by more than 30 liposuction patients who alleged they were disfigured by persistent lesions after contracting a rare infection during surgery at his office. An investigation in 1997 by the Orange County Health Care Agency to find the origin of the mysterious infection determined that the likely cause was reuse of disposable medical tubing or improper sterilization. The source of the bacteria, a rapidly growing mycobacterium, was a faucet at Greenberg’s office.
The Health Care Agency referred the matter to the medical board for investigation.
Greenberg was accused by the board of deceiving patients who contracted the lesions, telling them during follow-up visits that he had never seen similar infections. The investigators found that Greenberg not only retrieved surgical tubing from the trash, but also upbraided all employees in the office, directing them not to throw the tubing away again.
The board also accused Greenberg of misrepresenting himself as a board-certified plastic surgeon; permitting an office worker to illegally assist in several surgeries; failing to take preoperative histories; and failing to perform exams and laboratory tests on patients.