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Doc’s license revoked after 20 years of complaints

Sarasota physician Leonard Rubenstein was a thorn in the side of the medical establishment for nearly 20 years.

Time after time, patients complained that he charged them large sums for tests and treatments that not only didn’t work, but were unnecessary to begin with.

State health officials filed 24 complaints against him through the years, including allegations of financial exploitation of patients. He was reprimanded repeatedly, fined more than $50,000 and placed on probation at least three times.

Finally, on Friday, the Board of Medicine revoked his license.

Steven Lubell, Rubenstein’s attorney, told the board that was “unduly harsh” and said the doctor’s actions did not warrant the medical equivalent of the “death penalty.”

But Department of Health attorney Sharmin Hibbert said previous medical boards had imposed repeated discipline on Rubenstein, without result.

“What else is there you can do?” she asked. “You’ve imposed every possible penalty and this behavior has not stopped.”

This time, DOH prosecutors were armed with a legal opinion from Administrative Law Judge Susan B. Harrell. After taking testimony in three cases, she recommended revocation of Rubenstein’s license in each one.

Rubenstein was also asked to pay the state’s cost of prosecution, more than $98,000.

He can appeal the revocation to the courts.

In another case Friday, the board dismissed the case against emergency room physician Michael Lawless of St. Petersburg in two cases, including one involving the death of a 28-year-old from an aneurysm. Members of the board said Lawless handled both cases appropriately.

“The standard of care is ‘what would a reasonable and prudent practitioner do, not a perfect one,’” said Lisa Tucker, an obstetrician from Pensacola.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.