Tracking "Eric the Red"

A lot of people have wanted Dr. Eric Scheffey banned from operating rooms. Noe Santana swears he'll succeed where others have failed.

"I just want a judgment against him. I don't care if it's for a dollar. I don't know how much we're suing for and I don't care. I just want a judgment. I want his license."

Freeman may not have better luck than the Santanas when she gets to court. As the Santanas' trial showed, Scheffey's litigious history has made him an effective witness on the stand: He talks directly to jurors and effortlessly demonstrates the charm that former patients say caused them to trust him.

"Dr. Scheffey is a handsome man, he speaks well, he's very articulate," Jack Urquhardt, the Santanas' attorney, told jurors in final arguments. "We all heard him say, 'I had a hard time (with cocaine), I hurt a lot of people, but I believe in redemption.' "

Noe Santana and his son, J.R., bridled as Scheffey testified, talking at length about the risks involved in back surgery.

"If he had explained to my mother prior to the surgeries the risks involved half as well as he did with the jury, she would not have had the surgery," J.R. says. "No reasonable person would. He spent an hour explaining all the risks to them, walking around the courtroom with a model spine. He doesn't even have one of those in his office."

The jury no doubt depended on more than Scheffey's charm to find in his favor. His lawyers produced patient records that showed he had sufficiently briefed Ruth on the risks, and had handled the case properly. (It's these documents that have Noe talking about hiring an expert on detecting altered records.)

Santana says he'll appeal the verdict, pointing to documents not allowed into evidence that, he says, show Scheffey's negligence.

"We knew the verdict was coming because of the evidence the judge didn't let in," he says. "We are appealing, and that's good because it lets me get more of the trash out and to play with the man. Evidently most people don't know me. I got a lot of determination."

Even if he loses his appeal, Santana says he'll keep Scheffey in his sights. If he can't get relief from the board of medical examiners, he says, he'll just push to make Scheffey's record known to prospective patients.

"They wanted to settle [the malpractice suit], but they wanted us to sign a confidentiality agreement," he says. "I wouldn't do it, because I know I'm not going to keep my mouth shut.... If you sell your rights to say what this person is, how are you going to be able to look at yourself in the mirror?"

"He hurt the wrong person," says J.R. "I'm sorry it has to be my mother who got hurt, but my parents have the resolve and the determination to see this through. They were not the least bit tempted by the settlement, because of the confidentiality agreement."

"Realistically, how many people can afford to go up against a bastard like this?" Noe says. "It takes a lot of time and a lot of money."

He predicts that Scheffey will soon face a new wave of malpractice suits. He also says he won't be deterred by the jury verdict against him.

"My resolve, my determination, my get-up-and-go has probably doubled since the verdict," he says. "There's a thousand things I'm thinking of and new stuff that's coming up all the time."

Apparently he's not concerned that the ever-litigious Scheffey might sue him for his activities.

"They've already accused me of going out to his waiting area and hustling patients," he says. "But I don't have to do that."

He says that after the malpractice verdict was announced -- a mere two hours after the jury got the case -- he shook Scheffey's hand. While he's not really clear on why ("I don't have any hard feelings; it's a matter of principle"), he is clear on another thing.

"They know we'll be back," he said after the verdict. Before he learned the outcome, it was evident that even had he won, he wouldn't have been satisfied.

"I'm going to jack with this guy until the day I die," he said.

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