The Barnes Firm, formerly Cellino & Barnes, is a powerhouse in the personal-injury business in upstate New York, where it is a ubiquitous advertiser. According to the Buffalo News, it’s built one of the largest caseloads of Vioxx lawsuits in the nation by hawking its star attorney, Brian A. Goldstein, who in television ads
described how he was uniquely qualified to represent Vioxx users. Not only was he a personal injury lawyer, he told viewers, he was a former physician and board-certified surgeon….
The lawsuits accuse the drug’s maker, Merck & Co., with failing to tell patients the whole truth about Vioxx.
Goldstein, though, appears guilty of the same charge about his medical background. Georgia’s Composite State Board of Medical Examiners revoked Goldstein’s license to practice medicine on Jan. 10, 1991.
Goldstein was found guilty of providing Georgia licensing authorities with misleading and incomplete information about his education, according to records obtained by The Buffalo News. The licensing board found that Goldstein:
• Attended college and medical school at the same time in the Dominican Republic.
• Graduated from medical school less than three years after he graduated from high school.
• Received credit for courses he had not taken, had not completed or failed.
• Said he attended Tulane University when he had not, falsified his earlier training and submitted a false letter of recommendation for a residency at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center.
The hearing officer in Georgia not only recommended revocation but also said the decision should be published “as a public reprimand for [Goldstein] for his conduct.”
But none of that information was mentioned in the Vioxx ads, or in Goldstein’s biography on The Barnes Firm Web site.
The Buffalo News investigation includes various defenses of his conduct offered by Goldstein, including the following:
He also said Georgia authorities failed to consider the fact he had received an undergraduate degree from Empire State College.
The News confirmed that degree from the college, which grants degrees based on life experience as well as academic studies. But the degree was granted in 1988, three years after Georgia filed charges against him.
The newspaper asks medical ethicist Arthur Caplan about Goldstein’s “selective use of parts of his medical background to recruit legal clients”. Caplan’s response: “I think it’s sleazy”. (Michael Beebe, “Did Barnes Firm lawyer tell the whole truth?”, Buffalo News, Jan. 22). Carolyn Elefant comments at My Shingle (Jan. 22), and the incident also stirs memories for blogger Gina at Together Again (Jan. 23). The law firm of Cellino & Barnes has figured in these pages before: see Jul. 15, 2005.