(CN) – A patient claims the producers of CBS TV show “The Doctors” tricked him into appearing before a live studio audience to undergo laser surgery for “pearly penile papules,” then broadcast his penis operation without his consent.
Pearly penile papules are harmless, noncontagious, skin-colored bumps.
Plaintiff Tyler Bowling, 21, of Minneapolis, says he suffered “relentless embarrassment and harassment” in phone calls and emails from acquaintances and strangers since the show’s producers tricked him into appearing on “The Doctors.”
In his complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, Bowling says he contacted Dr. William Groff in January 2009, after seeing the doctor’s Web site, which advertised a laser treatment for pearly penile papules.
The next month, Bowling says, he made an appointment at Groff’s La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre to undergo the $4,500 procedure.
Two days after he made the appointment, Bowling says, Groff’s secretary called and offered the treatment for free if Bowling would agree to “discuss his condition” on “The Doctors.”
“Minutes” later, Bowling says, “The Doctors” producer Lauree Dash called him to talk about his appearance, though he had not signed a waiver allowing Dr. Groff or his secretary to share his medical information.
Nevertheless, Bowling says, he jumped on a plane to Los Angeles that afternoon.
The next day, Bowling says, he met with Groff, who examined him and anesthetized his penis. Groff didn’t tell Bowling about any risks associated with the laser treatment, Bowling says, though the procedure is an off-label use of the Lumenis Co2 laser.
Bowling claims that Groff decided to perform the surgery before he even met Bowling. Bowling says he started to get cold feet, but Groff’s secretary assured him that only doctors and medical students watched the show.
He claims she left out the part about the 200-person studio audience.
Then Dash told Bowling the show would be broadcast nationwide on CBS.
“Based on this newly disclosed information, plaintiff immediately voiced his reservations and second thoughts about appearing,” the complaint states. “Ms. Dash proceeded to cajole, assuage and persuade plaintiff that appearing was no ‘big deal’ and that no one would see the episode and that plaintiff’s appearance would be anonymous,” according to the complaint.
When Bowling reluctantly agreed, he says, Dash pulled out a video camera and asked “a leading question in regard to a release.”
Bowling claims the video shows his “hesitant demeanor.”
Producers then shoved a bunch of release forms in front of him and persuaded him to sign, Bowling says. After that, the producers escorted Bowling onstage in front of the live audience, he says.
After a few minutes of describing his condition, Bowling says he “froze and didn’t know what to do when the show’s host read” the following letter, claiming Bowling had written it.
“Dear Doctors,” the letter stated, “I’m so embarrassed to ask you this, but I’ve had these white pimples on my penis for a long time. I went to my doctor and he told me they were perfectly normal so I should just forget about them … but I’m so embarrassed. Have you ever heard of this? Is there anything I can do to get rid of them? Please help! Tyler, Minneapolis, MN.”
The episode shows Bowling discussing his condition with the show’s hosts, leaving for his surgery, and returning to report it a success. Bowling claims production company Stage 29 rebroadcast the episode and posted it on YouTube without his permission.
Bowling seeks punitive damages for privacy invasion, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, emotional distress, and misappropriate of his likeness.
The defendants are Dr. William Groff, La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, CBS Television Distribution, Stage 29 Media Productions, and Lumenis.
Bowling is represented by Walter Batt.