2 on Osteopath Board to Be Ousted : One Is Surgeon Who Lost $600,000 Malpractice Suit
Gov. George Deukmejian is on the verge of replacing two members of the state board that licenses osteopathic doctors, including one who is under fire because of a breast-reduction operation on a San Diego woman that resulted in a malpractice judgment.
Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Brett said Dr. S. Paul Sadick, who performed the operation on the woman, and Dr. Michael J. Feinstein will be replaced on the Board of Osteopathic Examiners board “in the very near future.”
Brett said replacements for the two doctors, both appointees of former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., may even be named before Friday, when the panel is expected to re-open an ethics investigation over the operation performed by Sadick in March, 1980.
The surgery, in which the woman, now 23, suffered a severe infection and lost a nipple, resulted in a $660,000 malpractice judgment.
Sadick, 55, formerly in private practice in La Jolla, is now chief of surgery at the military hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska.
But he has remained a member of the California licensing board.
Like traditional medical doctors, osteopaths complete four years of postgraduate training. Fourteen states, besides California, license osteopaths under separate boards than other medical doctors.
Osteopathic Board Executive Director Gareth J. Williams said the panel had suspended its investigation of Sadick, pending the outcome of the civil case.
In April, the state Supreme Court ended a years-long series of appeals by Sadick when it refused to hear the case. Last year, the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the judgment against Sadick, which included $300,000 in punitive damages, which are rarely awarded in malpractice cases.
Sadick and Feinstein’s three-year terms on the board expired officially June 1. But board members serve until they are replaced.
Brett said Deukmejian never had any intention of keeping either of the two doctors on the board.
“There are exceptions, but it is the governor’s general policy not to reappoint Brown appointees,” said Brett.
Brett acknowledged, however, that Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) had provided the governor’s office with a videotape of a San Diego television station’s news series about Sadick, and had urged that both doctors be immediately replaced.
Brett said the process of choosing successors for the two men was already “well under way” before Stirling handed over the tape.
“The timing of the series and the time for new appointments was coincidental,” Brett said.
Williams said that the investigation into Sadick’s performance of the operation would be re-referred to the board’s ethics committee Friday, when the board meets in Pomona. He also said that the timing of the re-opening was coincidental.
He said the board directed him in December, 1982, “to close the investigation pending outcome of civil litigation.”
Unless a doctor is considered a danger to the public, Williams said that is the routine manner of handling such cases. There was no urgency in this case, Williams added, because Sadick, an Air Force colonel, had arranged to “go back into the service long before this case came to fruition.”
The television news series, by KGTV (Channel 10), had charged, among other things, that the board had covered up the case involving Sadick. Williams said the charge “is unfounded.”
Sadick was not available for comment Wednesday.
Stirling and Dan Broderick, the lawyer who handled the woman’s lawsuit against Sadick, were critical of the fact that Sadick and Feinstein have remained on the board.
The law that allows regulatory agencies to suspend investigations during long court cases “ought to be changed,” Stirling said.
“What that says in effect is that the regulatory boards are deferring their investigative responsibility to the courts,” he added. “I reject the notion that they are just executioners of the courts’ will.”
Broderick, who is also a doctor, specializes in malpractice cases. He said he has been involved in a “whole lot of” them in which disciplinary action is taken by licensing panels while civil cases are pending.
Since the Channel 10 series aired, Broderick said, he has been contacted by another woman who charged that Sadick unnecessarily removed her breasts for a non-existent malignancy. That woman, Broderick charged, was referred to Sadick by Feinstein, a general osteopathic practitioner who practices in San Diego.
Broderick said he had assumed, until last week, that Sadick was no longer on the state board.