CMS Connect Login:

Login Assistance

Vocation and Avocation

Passionate about his career as a radiologist, Dr. Berlin also become passionate about helping physicians avoid malpractice suits By Cheryl England

Highly renowned for his skills as a radiologist, Leonard Berlin, MD, a former chairman of the department of radiology at Rush North Shore Medical Center and current member of the radiology department at NorthShore University HealthSystem, is also famous for his skills in championing the cause of physicians who have been hit with a malpractice lawsuit—especially when it’s an unfair one. And he should know. In 1975, a patient sued him for missing a small fracture in the x-ray of her dislocated index finger, claiming that she had lost the use of her hand. “She sued both the orthopedist and me,” says Dr. Berlin. “We showed several other physicians the x-ray and they all agreed that there was no way we could have seen the fracture due to the placement of the dislocation.”

Not one to take a wrong accusation lying down, Dr. Berlin made national news by—believe it or not—countersuing the patient, charging her with malicious prosecution. As fate would have it, right before the case was to go to trial, the patient dismissed it. But Dr. Berlin kept going with his suit. “I wanted to sue for $1 but to get the case into the court system, I needed to sue for at least $1,000,” says Dr. Berlin. “So my lawyers and I agreed to sue for $5,000 and we won.”

The suit set a precedent and for the next couple of years a flurry of similar cases cropped up. Eventually, Dr. Berlin’s case was reversed based on the theory that the judicial system should not scare people away from taking their complaints to court. “At first I was angry,” says Dr. Berlin. “But then I realized that it was the right decision. We really can’t penalize people for filing a lawsuit.”

The experience has turned Dr. Berlin into a well-known expert on medical malpractice issues. For eight years, Dr. Berlin has written an article every month for the American Journal of Roentgenology on risk management. For the past 25 years, he has also served on ISMIE’s peer review committee, which reviews cases where payments have been made to patients to determine if the medical decisions were sound. And he has spoken widely on the subject both in the United States and abroad.

A Chicago native, Dr. Berlin began his route to medicine by working in a pharmacy handling deliveries while in high school. At first, he thought he might like to be a pharmacist but his boss quickly suggested he go to medical school instead. While in medical school, he landed a summer job running a micro x-ray recorder—and he hasn’t looked back since. After a stint as a radiologist in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Berlin returned to his beloved Chicago with his wife Phyllis and became the proud father of four sons, one of whom is also a radiologist at NorthShore. “My wife always wanted a girl,” he says. “Well, we didn’t have one, but now we have eight grandchildren—and seven of them are girls!” The couple celebrates their 58th wedding anniversary this June.

Document Actions

Join CMS

Why join?  The Chicago Medical Society offers many benefits, including career placement, advocacy, networking, and member to member collaboration. Click here to explore all the benefits of membership.

CMS Connect

CMS Connect is an exclusive community that allows members to discuss the issues impacting their practices today. Visit CMS Connect today.