A Superior Court commissioner Wednesday temporarily suspended the license of a Santa Ana plastic surgeon who was accused by the state medical board of gross negligence in treatment of three women patients, including one who died within two months after he performed surgery on her at his office.
Dr. James D. Dean, 54, who claimed he is being attacked by doctors who don't understand his specialty of cosmetic surgery, appeared in court but later refused to talk about the charges against him.
Commissioner Ronald L. Bauer, who issued the temporary restraining order, permitted Dean and his attorney, Ira Riskin, to leave through the judges' private hallway rather than the public hallway so they could avoid reporters and cameras.
The temporary restraining order against Dean will remain in effect until a full hearing before Superior Court Judge Judith Ryan on April 15. At that hearing, the attorney general's office, on behalf of the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance, will seek a permanent injunction until Dean is given a hearing before the medical board in September. He could have his license revoked at that hearing.
The attorney general's office claimed Dean was guilty of gross negligence because he failed to properly treat infections the three women developed after their surgeries. All were treated by Dean last year.
Bauer listened for more than an hour to Riskin as he depicted the investigation of Dean as nothing more than a feud between the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which is recognized by the state medical board, and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons, to which Dean belongs and which is not officially recognized by the state medical board.
Bauer said he was heavily influenced by reports to the state medical board by four doctors who criticized Dean's handling of the three patients. Two of the doctors took over two of the cases from Dean. The other two doctors were identified by the attorney general's office as recognized experts in plastic surgery.
"Doctors are often criticized for their reluctance to voluntarily testify about other doctors," Bauer said. "This strong sequence of statements is persuasive to me."
Cited as Leading Authority
Deputy Atty. Gen. Alan Meth described one of the four, Dr. Frederick M. Grazer of Newport Beach, as one of the world's leading authorities and a textbook author on plastic surgery.
Grazer stated in his affidavit, after reviewing Dean's handling of the three women's cases, that Dr. Dean is "an extreme danger to the public." Grazer was highly critical of Dean for having performed the surgeries in his office rather than a hospital.
Other doctors who criticized Dean in court documents were Dr. Robert Minor of Santa Ana, Dr. Malcolm Paul of Fountain Valley and Dr. Leonard Avedian of Newport Beach. Avedian and Paul both treated patients whose cases were investigated by state medical officials, after they left Dean's care .
Dean claimed in court papers that Grazer and Minor are prejudiced against him because they do not give credence to cosmetic surgeons. He also claimed they are trying to avoid competition from cosmetic surgeons and want to create a monopoly.
Dean did not deny that he is also a plastic surgeon. In fact, the name of his office is listed in the telephone book at the Institute of Plastic Surgery Medical Group (he has a partner). He referred to it in court papers as the Institute of Cosmetic Surgery, but an answering service operator used the plastic surgery name when The Times called Dean's office at 3620 S. Bristol St.
Riskin argued in court that the patient of Dean who later died, Marvis Ferber, 36, of Huntington Beach, did not die of an infection, but from phlebitis. Riskin told the commissioner that even Dean's accusers agree there was no causal relationship between her death and the infection.
But Meth, of the attorney general's office, and a state medical board investigator, Kathleen L. Schmidt, said later they did not agree.
"I don't know where he (Riskin) got such an idea," Schmidt said.
Ferber was given a tummy tuck and hip reduction surgery by Dean.
A second woman who received a tummy tuck and hip reduction surgery from Dean now faces heart valve surgery because the infection spread to her bloodstream, the petition against Dean claimed. The third woman, who had a breast operation, faces additional breast surgery because of Dean's negligence, according to allegations in the petition.
Riskin, who practices out of Pacific Palisades, interrupted Commissioner Bauer when Bauer tried to make his ruling to argue his case another 15 minutes. When Bauer, who was acting as a Superior Court judge, concluded his ruling, Riskin shook his head and said, "Lifting Dr. Dean's license is way too sweeping an action in this situation."
Bauer answered: "I conclude otherwise."
Riskin also refused to talk with reporters, except to say he might file an appeal of Bauer's ruling.