Patients: Doctor left us with deformed penises
The 44-year-old married Chicago man was lured in 2003 by the promise of a longer and thicker penis.
Thousands of dollars and multiple surgeries later, the man has something "that doesn’t even resemble a penis," said his attorney, Lawrence Griffin. "It’s absolutely grotesque."
Dozens of Chicago men have the same shrunken deformities, and each alleges Dr. Sheldon Burman was the one who convinced them his surgery could provide them with something that nature did not.
But based on the repeated horror stories emerging from his Male Sexual Dysfunction Clinic at 3401 N. Central Ave. — 45 malpractice claims have been filed against Burman — state officials recently moved to revoke his medical license.
It is one of the state’s first revocation requests against a doctor for a "pattern of practice" showing "incapacity or incompetence to practice," according to revocation records, which add that Burman engaged in a practice to "deceive, defraud or harm the public."
That action comes after millions of dollars in judgments against Burman and his clinic, and as the American Urological Association labeled the penis-enlargement procedure he promotes as unsafe.
"[Burman] has got a track record of a lot of horrendous acts," said attorney Robert Strelecky, whose Clifford Law Offices recently won a $454,000 verdict against Burman on behalf of a 57-year-old Chicago man whose small intestine was punctured while fat was drained from his abdomen so it could be injected into his penis, enlarging it.
Burman said he stands by every one of the thousands of procedures he estimates he’s done since 1981.
He knows there are critics who say he’s selling fantasies to those with self-esteem issues and acknowledges a majority of his patients have normal-sized penises.
But he swears by the vacuum and stretching devices available on his Web site, www.lengthandgirth.com, and vows his surgeries can provide a penis with an extra half-inch of length and a 50 percent increase in girth.
Burman, 80, was once a well-respected heart surgeon until a 1981 car accident limited his mobility and he began operating on penises.
He said he is self-taught in the procedure and has no formal background in urology or plastic surgery.
Opposed by medical groups
And when leading medical groups and urologists bashed his practice as harmful, he and a handful of other doctors created their own group — the American Academy of Phalloplasty Surgeons — and deemed the procedures safe.
"Most of the men I’ve treated write me letters to tell me what a wonderful difference this has made in their lives," Burman said from his Highland Park home. "And, really, no matter how awful the initial results might appear, it doesn’t take much fine tuning to get a more desirable result."
There are few doctors in the country who perform penis-enlargement surgeries, according to Dr. Lawrence Ross, urology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and "it’s really frowned upon. It’s not sanctioned, not considered appropriate and in many cases, is dangerous."
Dr. Ira Sharlip, of the American Urological Association, said so few doctors perform the surgery "because the results are not good," adding "nothing works for increasing penile size."
Burman has also faced lawsuits based on work he did to insert implants in penises to help with erectile dysfunction — a largely approved, last-resort surgical procedure. He’s accused of improperly inserting rods or not providing post-operative guidance, allowing penises to become infected and, ultimately, disfigured.
Those patients often wind up seeing urologists like Ross.
"We see infections, sloughing of penile skin, and we have to go back and reconstruct or graft the penis," he said.
There are seven malpractice claims pending against Burman in Cook County Circuit Court, though he says most of them are frivolous.
Burman says patients are to blame when procedures go wrong — saying many don’t follow post-operative steps like cleansing and weighting it down, to ensure a bigger penis.
Though he says he no longer practices and has closed his office, other attorneys say he has stopped practicing before, only to start again.
Burman acknowledges he still takes calls from patients and will help guide them to other doctors — members of his organization — who still perform the enlargement surgery.
"I’ve had a very exciting and gratifying career," Burman said. "I feel as if I’ve done a lot of good for a lot of people."