Ind. surgeon sued, accused of botched breast surgeries

Women sue Dr. Alina Sholar

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Nine women are independently taking legal action against a local plastic surgeon claiming she butchered their breast reconstructive surgeries and falsified medical records.

Some say they are still battling infections, or have permanently maimed breasts from surgeries performed as early as 2007 by Dr. Alina Sholar, while she worked at Medical Cosmetic Center in Evansville.

One complaint for damages alleges that a patient developed her infections because Sholar fitted her with implant sizers that were previously used in another patient. Sizers are intended for single use only, according to the compliant. They are placed in the breast cavity to stretch the skin before inserting the prosthesis.

Sholar could not be reached for comment, and her attorney declined to comment on the specifics of the cases.

“There’s a lot more to the situation than I can comment about,” said Michele Bryant, Sholar’s lawyer, with Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP in Evansville. “It is more complicated then I can comment about. I’m sure people are curious about why there are multiple cases.”

In Indiana, potential malpractice lawsuits like these are first heard by a panel of three medical professionals. The panel rules if a doctor met a reasonable standard of care. The panel’s ruling can be submitted as evidence at trial.

So far, one of the cases was heard by a panel, which ruled Sholar did meet a reasonable standard of care. The other eight cases will likely be heard by a panel this year.

Dr. Sholar currently practices plastic surgery at The Sholar Center in Evansville. The most recent suit names the Sholar Center. The other eight name the Medical Cosmetic Center.

At least six of the nine women are represented by attorney Kathy Lee, with Cline Farrell Christie Lee & Caress, P.C. in Indianapolis.

Lee declined to comment on the cases, but the women’s allegations are outlined in their proposed complaints for damages, filed to the State of Indiana Department of Insurance.

Some of the women had their breasts removed to battle breast cancer, others elected to have breast augmentations.

Helen Lynn of Dawson Springs, KY, reported that after undergoing reconstructive surgery in 2007 the surgical wound on her breast became extremely painful before it finally burst open, exposing the silicon implant. Sholar treated and restitched the wound, but it continued to be infected.

Lynn eventually saw another doctor who “noted that (her) right breast was red and warm to touch, and that she had developed cellulitis in her breast.”

She had to be hospitalized, and given intravenous antibiotics. A surgeon later removed her right breast implant to combat the infection, according to the complaint.

Cheryl Schapker of Evansville claimed that her implant popped out of her breast when her surgical wound split open. According to her complaint, Schapker’s breasts had been infected for a while, but Sholar refused to treat the infection. Schapker had to see another doctor to treat the infection after the implant burst from her chest.

Juliana Camp, of Boonville, said she underwent a double mastectomy in 2008 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The wound on her breast never healed throughout her reconstructive surgeries, causing significant scarring, according to her complaint.

“It is unlikely that Mrs. Camp will be able to undergo nipple reconstruction due to the extent of the scarring,” the complaint reads.

The other women taking legal action against Sholar are Terrie Sharp, of Hawesville, KY; Lisa Angel, of Evansville; Susan Messie, of Wadesville, IN; Nancy Burris; Tara Adcock and Sherry Dean.

Some of the women eventually sought second medical opinions for complications from their surgeries, then underwent subsequent treatments for infections and additional surgeries performed by other doctors.

Some also allege Sholar falsified their medical records in some way, though none give any details.

Medical Cosmetics Center fired Sholar in January 2009, before the lawsuits were filed.

“The official reason was ‘a difference in philosophy,’” said Lisa Hastetter, Medical Cosmetic Center’s administrator. “There were a lot of issues. (The lawsuits are) all very similar.”