Star Surgeon Accused of Fondling
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ There is a sharp battle going on among some of Hollywood’s top scalpel artists.
The Medical Board of California said Monday it is investigating Dr. Steven Hoefflin, arguably Hollywood’s top surgeon-to-the-stars. He has sculpted Michael Jackson’s face and rejuvenated Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller.
Hoefflin, 51, is accused of fondling, disrobing, photographing and ridiculing his anesthetized patients. Investigators are also looking into claims of drug abuse.
Hoefflin denied the accusations and said they stemmed from infighting between himself and two former surgical partners, Drs. James Hurvitz, 50, and Wallace Goodstein, 51.
``I am appalled by these totally false and outrageous statements,″ Hoefflin said. ``This story ... is old news and represents disgruntled individuals who in the past created false charges to hurt me.″
Goodstein said he recalled one incident when Hoefflin ``had a very prominent male star in the recovery room. He exposed the guy’s genitals and made some comments.″
Goodstein said Hoefflin set out to destroy his reputation by saying it was Hoefflin who was mentally unstable and a drug user, and by attacking the subdermal liposculpture technique he developed.
``You’ve got a guy whose success corrupted him. He’s a long-term drug abuser and he’s got a character disorder. He’s projecting his sickness onto his associates,″ Goodstein said.
Hurvitz declined to comment Monday.
Four former employees who sued Hoefflin for sexual harassment also alleged that he pulled the blanket off a well-known female patient and spread her legs ``in a vulgar manner,″ according to documents supplied to the board by Hurvitz, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The women claimed that with a famous male patient, Hoefflin disrobed him, exposing his genitals, and stated: ``You know, he never used it.″
One of the plaintiffs, Kim Moore-Mestas, testified she observed Hoefflin’s ``touching of patients in a sexual manner.″
The four women settled their case and were under court order not to discuss it. They failed to appear earlier this year when subpoenaed to testify about Hoefflin at a Medical Board hearing; Deputy Attorney General E.A. Jones III is seeking a judge to order the four women to cooperate.
Board investigator Joanna Rykoff has said a telephone complaint came in on July 1, 1996, alleging that Hoefflin used drugs and ``had fondled and photographed patients (many of whom were in the entertainment industry) while they were under the effects of anesthesia.″
The caller also alleged ``patients’ private parts were exposed while they were being operated on for a face lift.″
``I am aghast,″ Miss Diller said. ``He’s one of my dearest friends. I’ve always admired him and his expertise with the knife.″
Hoefflin’s office supplied The Associated Press with a letter signed by anesthesiologists, Drs. John B. Bornstein and Martin Gordon, who wrote: ``We have never witnessed any impropriety or unethical conduct of any sort″ during a 16-year association with Hoefflin.
In 1995, Hoefflin was cited for heroism when he dove into chilly water to save a suicidal man who had jumped off the Santa Monica Pier. He later offered the man a job.