Colleague of slain doctor is helping with her patients

Posted: June 22, 2013

A colleague of a Pennsauken doctor killed by her husband this week began treating some of her patients at his practice Thursday.

Herman Cohen, a Pennsauken family physician who met Michelle E. Liggio during a residency program at Kennedy University Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in 1993, had served as Liggio's on-call physician while she was on vacation.

"Dr. Liggio had entrusted me to take care of her patients ... as we cross-covered for each other," he said.

Liggio, 47, a general practitioner, was shot to death by her husband, Christopher, 58, about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at her office on the 7700 block of Maple Avenue before he turned the gun on himself, authorities said. Law enforcement sources said she had recently filed for divorce.

It was not clear how long Cohen would fill in for Liggio, a 1993 graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford. Cohen's willingness to treat Liggio's patients offered at least some relief for those worried about getting prescriptions and immediate medical care.

"That's good," said Gayle Daniels, 59, of Clementon. "We didn't know which way things were going to go."

A message Thursday on Liggio's office voice mail said the office would reopen Monday from 10 a.m. to noon and at the same hours Wednesday and Friday. Cohen said Liggio's staff members would help with phone calls and questions about records during that time.

A representative from the answering service said Cohen would be available to treat Liggio's patients.

The State Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses physicians, among other duties, mandates that medical records be maintained by a physician for at least seven years from a patient's last visit, said Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for the Division of Consumer Affairs.

"Patient records don't just fall off the radar," Lamm said, adding that support staff could also maintain the records.

The state board does not specifically address what happens to the records if a physician suddenly dies, but patients can request their records at any time, and their new physician can also obtain those records, Lamm said.

Lamm said concerned patients could contact patient advocates with the state board at 609-826-7100 or bme@dca.lps.state.nj.us to assist them if they encounter problems.

Melinda Martinson, general counsel for the Medical Society of New Jersey, said typically the covering physician for a deceased doctor steps up to treat patients - much the way Cohen is doing.

"This is medicine at its finest," said Martinson. "No physician wants to see someone go without medical care. A covering physician would likely want to help with that transition."

Cohen said phones had been ringing constantly with questions from Liggio's patients. His practice is in the 5600 block of Westfield Avenue.

"She was a very caring and compassionate person and physician," Cohen said. He can be reached at 856-663-1470.


Contact Darran Simon

at 856-779-3829 or dsimon@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.

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