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Swanson is not the only one living with restrictions. Today, Mundstock still has blotches of white scar tissue above her lip. Her thighs are bigger than ever, she says, but that's OK.
"I think I learned a big lesson," says Mundstock, who now works as a psychiatric nurse. "Just to accept myself."
Swanson declined to speak with the Pitch for this story.
Swanson hasn't had any new lawsuits filed against him since 1999, the same year the Kansas medical board restricted him from doing some of the procedures that originally landed him in legal trouble.
"[Plastic surgery] is the only specialty in medicine where the doctor can do everything right and still not have a good outcome," says Dr. Mark Gorney, a retired plastic surgeon and current medical director of the Doctors Company, the largest medical malpractice insurer in the United States. "What people don't understand is that how you scar is between you and God. It's part of your genetic package."
Gorney admits that twenty lawsuits filed against a doctor in four years is "more than the average" but says, "I don't think you can judge whether a person is competent by the number of lawsuits [filed against him or her]." A plastic surgeon can expect to have some kind of legal encounter (not necessarily a lawsuit) every two and half years, Gorney says.
Only two of the malpractice lawsuits against Swanson have actually gone to trial, and both resulted in verdicts in Swanson's favor. (One plaintiff has been granted a new trial.)
"Most medical malpractice cases are lost [by the plaintiff]," says Steve White, president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. White has tried many malpractice cases, he says, and turns down 95 percent of people who come to him hoping to file a lawsuit against a doctor.
"Some are frivolous, but most of the time the resulting damage is inconsequential when compared to the cost of prosecuting the case," says White, who adds that the simplest of cases can still run up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, in part because of the cost of medical experts needed to testify.
Swanson has always maintained that he warned patients up front about potential complications. At the Missouri hearing, members of his office staff backed him up. One of Swanson's nurses, Kathy Aasmundstad, told the board, "If anything, he wanted us to inform them of as much as we could. I'm never to downplay it, and we always felt as nurses we'd like to make them expect the worst. It's much easier to deal with patients who are thinking, 'This isn't nearly as bad as everybody told me,' than if they say, 'Nobody told me.'"
Court records reveal that Swanson blamed his legal and medical-board woes on envious colleagues and negative publicity, such as TV-news "Public Defenders" and "Call for Action" reports.
"I don't know anybody in this area that has done the volume that I have done," Swanson said in a deposition. "[Anybody] that's been subjected to the kind of professional animosity and jealousy that I have, that's been subjected to a news story against me, that's had very aggressive plaintiffs' attorneys going after me ... these are all factors that go into the fact that I have [so many] lawsuits.
"I feel that I'm a good doctor, and I think that it's an unfortunate reflection on things that have very little to do with the practice of cosmetic surgery," Swanson continued.