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Doctor performs surgery on his subway advertisements


NEW YORK-- Dr. Tusch is back.

Embattled hemorrhoid doctor Jeffrey Lavigne is advertising again in the subways after being booted off the trains in September. But this time around, his name and famous telephone number, 1-800-MD-TUSCH, are nowhere to be found.

He's got a new listing. "Need a better seat on the E train? Call 1-800-877-LASER" reads a poster at a subway station.

The Metropolitan Transit Administration removed Dr. Lavigne's ads from the subways last year after the New York Daily News uncovered widespread complaints about his practice and a state probe into his license.

But Dr. Lavigne then sued in Brooklyn Supreme Court, and the MTA agreed to an out-of-court settlement that allowed 10,000 of his posters back on the subways -- even though he is still undergoing state disciplinary hearings on charges of gross negligence and gross incompetence.

Dr. Lavigne agreed to drop three advertising claims the MTA found misleading: "No pain, no bleeding, fast return to normal activities," "no hospital stay," and "gallbladder removal as an outpatient."

"Once they removed that language, there wasn't much our lawyers felt we could do," said MTA spokesman John Cunningham. "They would have gone back to court seeking damages -- and the last thing we wanted to do was to be paying this guy damages."

He said MTA officials are worried the new ads will deceive riders who won't make the connection to Dr. Lavigne, but he said there's nothing they can do about it.

Dr. Lavigne's lawyer, Andew Fisher, denied the name and number were changed to mislead straphangers.

"Dr. Tusch is no longer part of Dr. Lavigne's ad campaign," said Mr. Fisher. "We decided to identify the group practice as opposed to the individual practice. That appears to be the current style for ads like that."

Hearings into Dr. Lavigne's license by the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct have dragged on for over a year and promise to continue into the fall, said Mr. Fisher.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lavigne keeps his license, though employees said his practice has largely dried up since the state hearings were reported last year.

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