In February 2013, family practitioner Dr. Steven Bernhard had his medical license revoked. That did not stop the Queens doctor however from continuing to acquire diet pills and sell them to patients without any regard for their health. This went on for two years and ultimately cost one woman her life, in what can be described as the ultimate medical malpractice. Now the 66-year-old faces criminal charges including unauthorized practice of medicine, reckless endangerment and fraud.
The New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct made the decision to revoke Bernhard’s license in 2013 after finding him guilty for multiple instances of negligence and dangerously prescribing controlled substances. For over two years, he continued to see a substantial amount of patients on a daily basis, and built up a reputation online as the doctor to see to obtain diet pills. Investigators say the doctor held on to the physical copy of his license, even though it had been revoked, and used it to purchase 1.5 million pills from a wholesale distributor who was unaware that the license was no longer valid.
In March of 2015, a regular patient of Dr. Bernhard paid a visit to his office in Bayside, Queens. Prosecutors say she shelled out $250 for a larger than usual amount of the diet pill phendimetrazine. A month later the 65-year-old woman suffered a heart attack and died. The woman had a history of heart disease, yet records show Dr. Bernhard failed to perform any routine tests to make sure it was safe for her to take the medication. Diet pills are a form of amphetamines, a group of drugs not recommended for patients with heart problems.
A few months after the fatal heart attack, detectives conducted a raid on the Bayside office and discovered 60,000 pills along with multiple patient records. Investigators said not only was the unlicensed doctor still seeing patients and providing them with potentially dangerous diet pills, he was also writing prescriptions for pain killers. Friends and family members received the scripts for opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet, which have been more difficult to get since the CDC set new guidelines for controlled substances earlier this year.
New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor says Steven Bernhard was, “endangering the health and well-being of his patients.” Bernhard claims he thought there was an appeal pending over the loss of his license and he was still able to practice medicine. Doctors take an oath, and have a responsibility to their patients to do no harm and do everything in their power to keep their patients safe. If you or someone you love has been a victim of medical malpractice, it can be life changing for your family. Call the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to hold these medical professionals responsible for their negligence.