NEW YORK — At Dr. Niels H. Lauersen’s first trial for insurance fraud, in Manhattan, the courtroom was filled to overflowing with women and their babies, though they were soon thrown out — the judge didn’t want babies in his courtroom. Soon the women returned alone, many now brandishing photos of their children. Those unable to secure a seat crowded the halls.
The women were there to support “the Dyno Gyno,” as Geraldo Rivera had christened Dr. Lauersen, the handsome fertility doctor and tabloid star who had gained fame writing books about women’s health, appearing on television, and treating celebrities like Celine Dion, Foxy Brown, and Liv Ullman in a suite of offices in an exclusive Park Avenue co-op.
But by then his fall from grace was all but complete, a story well chronicled in the news media, with multiple malpractice suits against him accusing him of negligence in the care of some patients, including a baby who was born brain damaged. He had already lost two malpractice cases over improperly handled deliveries. He had settled a suit by a former patient who had accused him of rape, paying her a reported $110,000. And he had lost his license to practice medicine.
Dr. Lauersen’s first trial for insurance fraud — lasting seven weeks in early 2000 — ended in a hung jury. One juror said she didn’t believe in insurance companies.
At his second trial a year later, however, a jury found him guilty of billing insurance companies for services to patients like cyst removals when he was actually treating these patients for infertility — treatment that many insurance policies did not cover. These women were not his affluent patients, who could pay out of pocket; they were middle- and working-class women insured by managed care companies, The New York Times reported at the time.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution to insurance companies. The next year, New York state amended its laws to compel insurance companies to cover most fertility treatments.
But that came too late for Dr. Lauersen, a tall, bearlike, Danish-born man with a mop of blond curls and a perennial tan who was once married to the heiress and dance patron Rebekah West Harkness, and who dated boldfaced names like Denise Rich, the wealthy songwriter and ex-wife of the disgraced financier Marc Rich; and Gael Greene, the longtime restaurant critic of New York Magazine and author of steamy books like “Delicious Sex.”
Dr. Lauersen died on July 14 at his home in Manhattan. He was 84. His son Dr. Tyler B. Evans said the cause was heart disease.
Niels Helth Lauersen was born in Skagen, at the northern tip of Denmark, on Sept. 10, 1936. After graduating from medical school in Copenhagen in the late 1960s, he moved to New York City for a surgical internship and then a residency in the obstetrics and gynecology department at what was then New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Lauersen had four children with three women, none through marriage.His marriage to Nula Robinson, a former patient, ended in divorce.