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Orem plastic surgeon sued over botched surgery

Published June 20, 2012 7:42 am

She claims the Orem doctor tried to fix botched surgery by stabbing scar tissue with "pickle fork."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Orem plastic surgeon Joseph Edward Berg is being sued by a patient who claims Berg tried to correct a botched surgery by stabbing her scar tissue with a "pickle fork" after allowing her anesthetic to wear off.

Berg, who was convicted of attacking and kidnapping his longtime girlfriend, scheduled Jennifer Swalberg for abdominoplasty and liposuction in May 2011, the lawsuit states.

Swalberg claims Berg did not provide aftercare instructions and applied her healing garments so tightly that her skin developed indentations. After her wounds became irritated, Berg used his fingers to force antiseptic-soaked gauze into the wounds, pulled the gauze out and restitched the wounds, the suit states.

The wounds did not heal, and Swalberg claims she developed swelling and hard spots on her abdomen.

After two rescheduled appointments — including one in which Berg passed out in the hallway — he administered steroids and a local anesthetic and then left the room for an hour, Swalberg claims. When he returned, he cut open Swalberg's surgical site even though the anesthetic had worn off, according to the lawsuit.

He then "repeatedly stabbed [Swalberg's] insides with a 'pickle fork,' which Dr. Berg said would loosen the scar tissue," the lawsuit states.

"It was excruciatingly painful, and [Swalberg] began bleeding profusely. … Dr. Berg instructed [Swalberg] to hold a paper wrapper against the site to control the bleeding."

Those wounds also became infected, leaking blood and a green, odorous fluid, Swalberg claims.

Over the next several weeks, Berg's staff refused to schedule an appointment; eventually they stopped answering the phone, Swalberg states.

Her allegations coincide with findings by the state Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing that his staff saw him swallowing handfuls of drugs and falling asleep while standing up during the summer of 2011.

His attorneys claim he became addicted to painkillers he took to ease injuries from his days as a BYU football player.

Investigators found prescription drugs at Berg's home in November when they responded to a 911 call to discover Berg's girlfriend bound and kneeling in a closet against her will.

Swalberg claims she was physically disfigured and psychologically violated. She was left with "a series of jagged incision scars; lumps of hardened scar tissue; fat, skin and tissue necrosis from repeated steroid injections; and abnormal tissue distribution."

She is suing Berg and his clinic.

Berg was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 36 months probation in April for the attack on his girlfriend.