English language reading materials for students & teachers graded by CEF language level. More about these ELT learning resources here.

Doctor Who?

CEF English language level: B1

Lisa Barnes thought she was a very lucky bride.

Her fiancé was a very successful doctor. Dr Gerald Barnes' Los Angeles clinic did the medical examinations for FBI. It had an important contract with the Federal Reserve Bank. It was famous for its charity work.

And Dr Barnes was popular with patients and business client. He was a highly respected member of society.

Or so Lisa thought.


Now it was true that Dr Gerald Barnes was a fine doctor. Unfortunately he did not live in Los Angeles. And he was not Lisa's husband.

The man everyone called ‘Dr Barnes’ was really a convicted fraudster. His name was Gerald Benbaum. And he was not a doctor

Before moving to California, Banbaum had already been to prison four times four illegally practicing medicine. He had no medical degree, though he did have some training in pharmacology.

On leaving prison in 1976 Benbaum had created a new identity for himself. First he legally changed his name to Barnes. Then he applied for the certificates and diplomas of another Gerald Barnes.

‘My house has burned down,’ Benbaum wrote on ‘Dr Barnes’ stationary. ‘And I need a new certificate.’
The real Dr Gerard Barnes was in San Francisco. He knew nothing about Banbaum’s letter to the medical licensing board.


How could ‘Dr Barnes’ continue to practise for nearly four years? One reason is his pharmacology background enabled him to write prescriptions. And the false doctor’s good bedside manner reassured patients.

He is now serving 20 years in prison.

Do you think this really happened? You can write your comments here


Frst published in the English language learner section of Ming Pao Daily. Illustrations by Iris Tsoi.