HAMMOND | Peggy Hood blames Mark Weinberger for her sister's death in 2004, and she had her first chance to confront the doctor in court Wednesday.
Weinberger, the captured international fugitive formerly known as "The Nose Doctor," was escorted into Hammond federal court Wednesday to give a deposition in a lawsuit accusing him of negligently causing Phyllis Barnes' death in September 2004. Weinberger was deposed by attorney Kenneth Allen, who filed the suit on behalf of Barnes' family.
Barnes' sister, Hood, of Valparaiso, sat in on the deposition.
"She went through a horrible, horrible ending," Hood said.
Shortly after Weinberger was returned to the United States from Italy, Allen, who represents many of the hundreds of former patients suing Weinberger, set up the deposition. Weinberger's lawyers successfully argued for a gag order in Barnes' civil case, Allen said, so he offered no details of the deposition Wednesday.
Allen said he was "pleased" with the chance to depose Weinberger. Allen said he hopes the Barnes case goes to trial this summer.
"For this family ... this has been a horribly long ordeal," he said. "Justice delayed at such a level really is justice denied."
Hood said the case is "always on everyone's mind." Allen and Hood said Weinberger diagnosed Barnes with nasal problems rather than spotting the real issue: throat cancer. Weinberger had Barnes into his office for a procedure, but he didn't visit her after the procedure, Hood said. Weinberger laughed off Barnes' concerns later and told her to "give it time," Hood said.
Barnes died Sept. 6, 2004. Weinberger disappeared days later.
"His patients all had the same diagnosis," Allen said. "It was a diagnosis for dollars."
Weinberger has been moved from the Porter County Jail to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Allen said.
Weinberger was captured on an Italian mountainside Dec. 15, 5-1/2 years after he disappeared on a family trip to Greece. A guide on the mountain tipped off authorities the former doctor was living in a tent with high-tech survival gear.
Weinberger was taken to a hospital after he stabbed himself in the neck. Weinberger was later arrested on a warrant linked to a 22-count criminal indictment issued in 2006. Weinberger's alleged malpractice has also led to 357 civil claims, according to the Indiana Patients' Compensation Fund's Web site.
On the criminal side, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane L. Berkowitz asked a judge Monday to order a hearing to determine whether Weinberger should face a competency evaluation before further hearings are held.
In two hearings in Hammond federal court, Weinberger did not directly answer Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry's questions about whether he is capable of understanding proceedings. Berkowitz cited that and Weinberger's apparent suicide attempt in asking for the hearing. Cherry had not ruled on that motion Wednesday.