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JUDGE BLOCKS HEALTH DEPT. HEARING FOR PLASTIC SURGEON IN PATIENT'S DEATH

A Buffalo judge today blocked a state Health Department hearing for Dr. Anthony S. Pignataro in the death of one of his plastic-surgery patients.

State Supreme Court Justice Eugene F. Pigott Jr. also agreed to conduct a hearing Nov. 12 on Pignataro's efforts to reverse the Aug. 29 suspension of his medical license. Pignataro also is seeking dismissal of the medical misconduct proceedings he faces in the death of the patient, Sarah Smith.

Kristine Smith, an Albany spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the department will "without doubt" vigorously contest the West Seneca doctor's efforts to kill the medical inquiry.

Ms. Smith said physicians are rarely suspended "unless there is extremely compelling evidence" of possible medical wrongdoing.

A departmental hearing into the suspension had been scheduled for Nov. 6. That proceeding is now on hold.

Mrs. Smith, 26, a Depew resident, mother of two and a paralegal at a Buffalo law firm, died a week after undergoing cosmetic surgery Aug. 25 in Pignataro's West Seneca office.

According to court sources, Pignataro's attorneys, who couldn't be reached to comment, complained to Pigott that Dr. Michael Baden, a medical examiner now working for the State Police, initially agreed to work for Dr. Pignataro in the case and then pulled back.

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