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Cleveland, Ohio

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Amber Scott
Amber Scott
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Nutty doctor sued for stabbing patient with pickle fork

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Most of us expect the best, or at the very least decent, care during a trip to the doctor’s office. One would assume that after years and thousands of dollars poured into an education, doctors would do their best to provide adequate care. However, it seems that more and more doctors are facing medical malpractice lawsuits over things that should have never happened, like the plastic surgeon who’s being sued for, among other things, stabbing his patient with a pickle fork.

Jennifer Swalberg is suing Joseph Berg, who operated out of a day spa, for disfiguring her during abdominoplasty and liposuction procedures back in May of 2011.

In papers filed with the court, Swalberg said the doctor deemed himself a “surgical artist.” The artist reportedly told her the two procedures had gone well and gave her a compression garment to wear, without directions. When she returned to his office six days later as instructed, she told him the garment was causing pain, swelling, and indentations, which he said was normal but admitted that the compression garment was too tight. He allegedly moved tissue around with his hands and injected steroids.

She was forced to schedule a third appointment after fluids and blood began to leak from her wounds. During this visit, the surgeon allegedly forced gauze into the wounds with his fingers and overlooked her infection. He prescribed medication and sent her on her way.

The trauma continued during an August visit when Swalberg was injected with even more steroids. The woman’s anesthetic wore off as the doctor cut open her wounds and began stabbing her with a pickle fork to loosen scar tissue. She claimed she cried as she bled profusely, and Berg sealed her wounds with liquid adhesive before applying gauze, putting her in another compression garment, and sending her on her way.

All future phone calls were ignored.

Swalberg is suing the “Surgical Artist” for medical malpractice, battery, lack of informed consent, and physician negligence.

Since her surgery and follow-up appointments, Berg has been arrested and served 180 days for abducting his girlfriend by binding her wrists to a dresser and gagging her. He pled guilty to kidnapping, possession of use of a controlled substance – he’d written himself 29 prescriptions – and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

Choosing a good doctor should not be done using the “eenie, meenie, miney, moe” method. Several years ago, CNN ran a story titled, “Five tips for picking a good plastic surgeon.” Those tips still hold true today:

  1. Make sure the plastic surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Check out the American Board of Medical Specialties website. Note that board-certified plastic surgeons have to partake in continuing medical education and pass a written test every 10 years.
  2. Check the surgeon's record for medical malpractice claims on your state’s medical board site, like http://www.med.ohio.gov/.
  3. Ask the surgeon if he or she has hospital privileges, because hospitals do background checks. As Dr. Rod Rohrich, past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons told CNN, "If they don't have hospital privileges, that's a huge red flag.”
  4. Ask questions. Your state’s medical board website will provide a list, but the internet is full of forums, medical websites, and the like. Do your research.
  5. Don’t choose a surgeon because he seems like he cares. Doctors are supposed to care. And, of course, plastic surgeons make thousands of dollars per procedure. Money is a great motivator.