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State Presses Case Against Noted Plastic Surgeon

August 20, 2005|Robin Fields | Times Staff Writer

The state attorney general's office pushed ahead Friday with an accusation of gross negligence and sexual misconduct against prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Renato Calabria, asking an administrative body to set a hearing on the matter.

The Italian-born Calabria has offices in Rome and Milan as well as Westlake Village, Rancho Mirage and Beverly Hills.

Purveyor of what he calls the "vertical face-lift," he has reportedly had clients who included singer Rod Stewart and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but he may be best-known for a lift he didn't do. Sharon Stone sued Calabria last year, saying he had implied in magazine articles that he had done work on her when he had not. Calabria has denied doing so.

The surgeon now faces an accusation filed in June by the Medical Board of California, based on the allegations of three female patients.

Two, in for breast lifts and tummy tucks, said Calabria had them sign consent forms for additional procedures after they were sedated.

A third -- a 47-year-old woman identified by her initials, "D.S." -- said Calabria dropped his scrub pants and exposed himself to her. At a subsequent consultation, she said, he unzipped his pants and made a pass at her, hugging her and attempting to kiss her on the lips.

Calabria was overseas and unavailable for comment Friday.

His attorney, Joseph Furman, said the Medical Board's case was without merit, adding that the sexual misconduct claim was instigated by a disgruntled former employee.

"They don't in any way criticize the surgical outcomes," Furman said of the allegations made by state officials.

In separate civil lawsuits, the two women who sought breast lifts and tummy tucks did take issue with the results of their surgeries, saying they were left with ugly scars and other problems. Attorney Barbara DiMeo said they and the third patient (whom DiMeo also represented in a civil action) had suffered both physical and emotional harm at Calabria's hands.

"I think it's clear the Medical Board considers his conduct well below the standard of care," DiMeo said. "If he can't control himself and put his patients' interests first, he shouldn't be practicing."

Court records show that a jury found Calabria liable for professional negligence last year and awarded one of DiMeo's clients, Lucy Hesky, $45,000 to cover the cost of her original surgery plus several correctional procedures.

The two sides subsequently agreed to set aside the judgment and came to a confidential settlement, DiMeo said.

The other two cases ended in confidential settlements.

"I'm still really upset," Hesky said. "What particularly got me was his lack of empathy. There's something in it that isn't fair."

The Medical Board's accusation also alleges that Calabria fell short in his recordkeeping and didn't get one patient's medical history or perform a pre-operative exam.

The hearing requested by the attorney general represents one step in a process that could result in Calabria having his license suspended or revoked, a Medical Board official said. But Furman said that Calabria had already demanded a hearing and that the surgeon was eager to present his case.

"Dr. Calabria strongly denies that he has done anything improper," he said. "We expect Dr. Calabria to be fully vindicated following the hearing."

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