Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated said that Dr. Steven L. Katz of Napa was accused by the California Attorney General's office of forging a letter incorrectly reporting that he was practicing medicine at least 40 hours per month, as required by an earlier probation imposed by the Medical Board of California. Instead, the accusation says that he provided a letter to state officials, apparently signed by a Novato doctor, saying Katz was actively seeing patients as part of his practice. That information later proved to be incorrect and the doctor told investigators that "he believes that Respondent [Dr. Katz] wrote the letter and he signed it." The letter was part of the Attorney General's accusation that Katz's conduct "constitutes unprofessional conduct, dishonest acts, and knowingly signing a certificate or document directly or indirectly related to the practice of medicine which falsely represents the existence or nonexistence of a state of facts" and that Katz "repeatedly represented to the Board, verbally and in writing that he was practicing medicine, when in fact he was merely observing another physician practice."
A local doctor, best known for a malpractice case in which he transferred the wrong embryos into the wrong woman and then tried to cover it up, faces the loss of his medical license yet again.
Steven L. Katz, M.D., who recently moved to Napa, has been accused of unprofessional conduct and dishonesty and failure to comply with his probation conditions. The accusation was filed by the Medical Board of California on Sept. 25.
According to the accusation, in November 2017, Katz provided a letter to state officials that stated he was actively working as a physician, a requirement of his probation. In reality, he was not, the board asserts.
Reached by phone on Monday, Katz declined to comment except to note that he does not practice medicine or see patients in Napa.
This isn’t the first time the medical board has moved to stop Katz – who specializes in infertility and reproductive endocrinology — from practicing as a physician.
In 2004, Katz made national news when it was discovered that he mistakenly transferred three fresh embryos that belonged to a patient identified as D.B. into a patient identified as S.B. The accident happened on June 15, 2000 during a procedure in his San Francisco office.
Patient S.B.’s name was later disclosed as Susan Buchweitz. The embryos were created using D.B.’s husband’s sperm and donor eggs.
Within 10 minutes of the mistaken transfer, Katz learned of the mistake, state medical board documents stated. However, he did not tell Buchweitz of the error.
About 30 minutes later, Patient D.B. was scheduled to receive three of her fresh embryos. Because her fresh embryos were no longer available, Katz implanted three of her frozen embryos in her instead. He did not tell D.B. about the mix-up or about the need to use her frozen embryos.
Katz then created false records about the mix-up, attempting to hide the error. He lied to his staff, falsely billed for procedures, altered records and continued to deceive the two women, said the medical board.
Both women became pregnant from the procedures. In February 2001, Buchweitz had a boy and D.B. had a girl.
More than a year later, after the state medical board began investigating, the two women found out the truth of what happened.
Patient D.B. and her husband, considering the boy their own son, began a costly legal battle with Buchweitz, according to state medical board documents. D.B.’s husband was granted visitation rights with the boy. The couple moved from Del Norte County to the San Francisco area to be closer to the boy.
In 2005, the board revoked Katz’s license, citing gross negligence, serious misconduct and “dishonest and corrupt behavior.”
In 2008, Katz asked for his license to be reinstated. The board said no.
In 2013, Katz again asked for reinstatement. The board allowed his license to be reinstated but placed him on probation for five years.
Part of that probation required Katz to actually practice medicine.
The physician said for two years he was unable to find work. However, in 2017, Katz told his probation inspector that he “started seeing patients today,” with Dr. B, a male infertility specialist and urologist with an office in Novato.
His probation inspector later found that Katz had reportedly provided a letter from Dr. B, incorrectly saying that he was practicing medicine — seeing patients, including women — for about 40 hours a month.
In reality, Katz was only observing, like a medical student or visiting colleague would, said Dr. B. Katz was in the office only about 14 hours per month.
The state medical board will next decide whether to revoke Katz’ probation, revoke his license or other consequences.
Katz works today as the CEO and Founder of REI Protect.
REI Protect has partnered with The Doctors Company of Napa to provide comprehensive, consistent insurance coverage to infertility medical practices and IVF laboratories across the country.
Katz attended Cornell University Medical College and from 1993 to 1995 worked at UCSF. He was board certified in obstetrics and gynecology in 1996. In 1996 he opened his own practice, Fertility Associates of the Bay Area, where the mix-up took place.
Both D.B. and Buchweitz received a settlement from Katz’ malpractice insurance.
According to a statement from his psychologist, Katz admitted that his error was a “horrible mistake.”
“For the past 14 years, he has had to adjust his life (knowing) the vast implications” and “how he has affected so many other people’s lives,” his psychologist wrote.