The Shadow Practice Part 4: Doc begs patients for loans

Published on
March 22, 2010

Some physicians cater to the immigrant community out of public service or cultural affinity. Others, like Dr. Harrell Robinson, end up there because they ruined their own reputations with English-speaking patients.

The Southern California cosmetic surgeon shared an Anaheim office with Dr. Andrew Rutland, the doctor who is now accused in the death of Chinese immigrant Ying Chen.

Over the years, Robinson developed a pattern of negligence, incompetence, dishonesty and corruption, according to the Medical Board of California.

Patients complained of post-surgical wounds that reopened weeks later. A nasal implant poked through a patient's face. Breast implants leaked and prompted Robinson not to remove them but to pump them full of more saline solution. When a patient complained of an infection, he didn't prescribe antibiotics, according to the medical board. He prescribed steroids.

Here's just one example, the case of a patient identified by the medical board as "L.C."

In or about July of 2004, patient L.C. saw respondent for additional lifting of her breasts and scar revision. On or about August 5, 20903, patient L.C. saw respondent in his office for removal of some dead skin from both breasts. On or about August 7, 2004, patient L.C. was admitted to the emergency room at the hospital with an exposed breast implant visible at the base of a three-by-four centimeter open wound. Respondent scheduled patient L.C. for surgery at respondent's office on or about August 12, 2004.

You read that correctly. When a patient's breast implant started to fall through an open wound in her skin one month after her last breast lifting surgery, Robinson did not immediately make time to close the wound. He scheduled her for a surgery one week later.

Some of you undoubtedly have had the experience of bringing your car to the shop for a bad radiator only to have them tell you that the timing belt needs to be replaced, too. Robinson appears to have taken that business model to a new level, the medical board said. One patient went in for a tummy tuck and a mole removal from her back. She woke up from surgery with bandages on her face and bottom. Robinson had decided to give her a facelift and to liposuction some fat from her buttocks, too.

Stories like that tend to hurt a doctor's reputation among the people who can afford cosmetic surgery. Soon, Robinson was so desperate for cash, he started asking one of his patients for loans, the medical board said.

On occasion, [Robinson] would come to her home unannounced and other times, respondent would call and say he was coming over to change her bandages. Each time, [Robinson] would ask [the patient] to loan him money.

The patient ultimately loaned Robinson $90,000, the medical board alleged. As you will find out next week, it wasn't enough. He found a new cash stream flowing through an immigrant clinic.

Next week: Immigrant clinic pushed painkillers by the trunk load

Related posts:

The Shadow Practice Part 1: Disciplined doctor found an exile community in immigrant health care

The Shadow Practice Part 2: New owners can't exorcise ghosts of clinic's past

The Shadow Practice Part 3: Immigrant clinic had deep roots in deception

The Shadow Practice Part 5: Drug pushers running this clinic were far from saints

The Shadow Practice Part 6: Doctors sell their souls, and their licenses, on the cheap

The Shadow Practice Part 7: Punishment for drug-dealing doctors more severe in Arizona

The Shadow Practice Part 8: How one California clinic became a magnet for bad medicine

The Shadow Practice, Part 9: Woman dies during cosmetic surgeries at unlicensed clinic

The Shadow Practice, Part 10: Coroner rules mistakes that killed patient a "therapeutic misadventure"

California governor and medical board should stand accused in patient's death