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He's also at the center of one of New York's most sensational medical-malpractice scandals in recent history. Over the course of the last eight years, Jacobs has settled or lost at least 26 malpractice lawsuits filed against him, and more are working their way through the courts. In late June, the state Department of Health suspended his license to practice medicine, and Jacobs is now fighting to save his career. State medical investigators have charged him with a wide range of misconduct, including giving his patients boob jobs that were much bigger than they requested, failing to treat a patient's abscess after surgery, humiliating a patient by undressing her post-operative wounds in front of Jacobs's then girlfriend, and removing too much cartilage from a patient's nose during rhinoplasty. In the most shocking case, state investigators claim that Jacobs smoked crystal meth with one of his patients, had sex with her while she was recuperating from a nose job, and ultimately deformed her face.
Jacobs has strenuously denied these allegations and spent the last few months appealing the decision. On June 20, he and his lawyer, Michael Kelton, convened a press conference at Kelton's office, where an emotional Jacobs read a prepared statement before leaving the room. Two of his patients stayed behind to sing his praises; one had flown in from Chicago to stand by her doctor. According to Kelton, over 100 patients have submitted letters attesting to Jacobs's professionalism; indeed, they claim they can't do without him. "Dozens of his patients are calling to say, 'What do I do now?' " Kelton says. "You know, his patients love him. And they can't even imagine going somewhere else."
Amid the furor, the identity of the patient who allegedly smoked meth and had sex with Jacobs was not revealed. Now, the Voice has learned her name and her story. She tells a lurid tale of Vegas strip clubs, of sex in Jacobs's Upper East Side apartment, and of the doctor performing surgery while under the influence of crystal meth. If her story is true, Jacobs is a menace who should never be allowed near a scalpel again.
But is her story true? Jacobs says his former patient is a delusional schizophrenic who invented the affair, a woman so haunted by self-loathing that she became fixated on the one man she thought could make her beautiful. Furthermore, Jacobs claims that he's been hounded in the press by greedy lawyers who saw a cash cow and milked it for all it was worth, while he was left with a life in ruins.
Since late June, a panel of two doctors and one layman has been reviewing Jacobs's case on behalf of the state Department of Health. They are considering whether to permanently revoke his license to practice medicine and are scheduled to render a decision at the end of September. (In the meantime, Jacobs cannot practice.) The panel's members must ask themselves: Is the man who describes himself as "one of the most famous plastic surgeons in history" just a speed-addled quack? Or is he a good man being shaken down by a school of legal sharks and drug-addicted strippers?
Few doctors can boast a résumé quite as impressive as Jacobs's. After growing up in Queens and Long Island, Jacobs attended SUNY Albany and got his medical degree from McGill University. He did his residency at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he says he'd already amassed a large patient following before setting up a private practice in 1995. With aggressive use of Internet marketing, his patient list grew worldwide by the late '90s, and he became particularly renowned among Austrian women. He's done work on four Playboy Playmates and countless Playboy models, who have autographed copies of their covers for him to display at his Upper East Side office. Before he sold it to cover his legal expenses, his old Porsche boasted the license plate "BUNNYMAKR."
It wasn't just his celebrity clientele that boosted Jacobs's reputation. He was named president of the advisory council for the breast-implant manufacturing company Mentor, and has presented techniques at the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Until his recent troubles started, Jacobs was writing a book, Good Boobs Gone Bad, on how to correct botched boob jobs. "Everything was about to be catapulted to the next level instead of being knocked down like this," he says. "It's just an absurditythe whole thing."
Jacobs may have wanted to take things to another level, but there was the little matter of 26 malpractice cases that ended in judgments against him or in settlements over the years. According to Jacobs, plastic surgeons deal with such settlements constantly, and his track record is better than some. "No names mentioned, but you look at other plastic surgeonssome of these surgeons have that in a year," he says. But according to the health-care ratings company HealthGrades, more patients have filed malpractice actions against Jacobs than any other plastic surgeon in the state; in fact, Jacobs's malpractice rate is 10 times the state average. According to Ken Halperin, a malpractice attorney with the firm Wingate, Russotti, and Shapiro, that's an extraordinary figure. "It's extremely unusual," he says. "I'd be shocked if there were more than 10 doctors in the state of New York that had 25 malpractice cases, let alone had settlements against them. . . . The amazing thing is that he still has his license."