Peggy Hood never thought that former Merrillville physician Mark Weinberger -- who disappeared five years ago in the wake of accusations of fraud and malpractice -- would be caught and have to face the criminal charges and civil action against him.

Hood, whose sister, Phyllis Barnes, died of cancer after Weinberger allegedly misdiagnosed her, said she was "very happy" to learn of Weinberger's arrest Tuesday in the Italian Alps.

"It will give my family some closure," Hood said. "All that anybody wants is for him to be held accountable for what he did,"

Hood spoke at a news conference Thursday at the Valparaiso office of attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who is handling the family's civil complaint against Weinberger.

Allen said Weinberger's attorneys have delayed the civil proceedings, saying they couldn't proceed without consulting with Weinberger.

Allen said the excuse is gone.

"The family of Phyllis Barnes, who died through Dr. Weinberger's negligent misdiagnosis, and 61 others he victimized will finally get their day in court," Allen said.

"All we really wanted was for him to face justice."

Indiana caps at $1.25 million the amount that can be recovered on behalf of Barnes, whose death at age 50 left her daughter, Shawn without a parent.

Allen said Weinberger diagnosed Barnes with nasal polyps and a deviated septum rather than the laryngeal cancer she actually had. She died Sept. 6, 2004, and Weinberger disappeared days later.

"We all suffered (as a result of Barnes' death)," Hood said.

"I hope (Weinberger) has to pay for what he's done to all these families."

Hood remembers her sister as someone who enjoyed helping other people.

"She was a very strong individual," Hood said.

"I didn't know how strong until she had to deal with the cancer. She suffered so much and for so long."

Barnes, who lived in Valparaiso, was able to see her daughter graduate from high school, said Hood, also from Valparaiso. Barnes' daughter has since graduated from college.

When asked what she would like to see happen to Weinberger, Hood said she just wants him to be held accountable through the criminal charges and civil action.

"Nothing will bring my sister back or make up for all the suffering she went through," Hood said.

Allen said Weinberger's actions were not mistakes, but rather an intentional scheme to make $200,000 a week doing unnecessary surgeries. Allen said he wants to find out why Weinberger, a bright man with a successful practice, did what he did.

"I think the answer we're going to hear ... is money," Allen said.

Jessica Pavey, 32, of Hammond, recalled traveling to Weinberger's Merrillville-based clinic seven years ago because of ongoing sinus problems that made her desperate for relief.

"I could never breathe, and I was constantly walking around with a tissue stuck up my nose. ... I went to his office and he did an MRI and told me I had nasal polyps and 80 percent blockage, which is what I guess he told everybody," Pavey said. "He told me I was a really good candidate for surgery."

When Weinberger was reported missing in September 2004, she said she retained a Merrillville attorney.

She does not presume she'll reap any benefits from pending malpractice lawsuits.

"I'm taking this as a live and learn," she said.

Times staff writer Deborah Laverty contributed to this report.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.