The pain doctor who died by suicide Monday in a Rikers Island shower cubicle sometimes called up the patients he victimized and threatened to take his own life, one woman told the Daily News.
“I would say, ‘Your kids are going to find out what you’re doing,’ and I would get a call that night saying, ‘So, you know, I’m thinking of killing myself because of what you said. You know what it’s like to grow up without a father. If I commit suicide, my kids won’t have a father,’” Hillary Tullin told The News.
“He knew exactly what to say — exactly what buttons to push to shut you down.”
One of six women whose testimony led a Manhattan Supreme Court jury to convict Cruciani on July 29, Tullin is the only one of his former patients who has gone public about the abuse she suffered under his care. The disgraced neurologist died inside the Eric M. Taylor Center early Monday.
Tullin, 45, was in her early 30s and working as a TV producer when she started experiencing unexplained pain in her limbs that was so severe she felt suicidal and even sought, in vain, to have her arm amputated.
More than a dozen doctors had summarily dismissed her as having a psychosomatic disorder by the time she met Cruciani in 2001. The prominent Beth Israel Medical Center pain management doctor, whose reviews in the small field were unparalleled, was the one who accurately diagnosed Tullin’s pain syndrome and alleviated her unbearable pain.
“It’s hard to reconcile someone could be as brilliant as he was and as much as a predator as he was,” Tullin said.
“The first assault was in 2005, and I reported it to the psychologist several weeks later, where I very explicitly told her I wanted it reported, and nothing was ever done.”
At the top of his field, Cruciani monopolized Tullin’s medical care — like many of his patients — billing her for visits in which he’d raped and sexually assaulted her.
“Every time I would go to another doctor, they would look at me and say, ‘You’re treating with Cruciani? I can’t offer you anything else. You’d be crazy to leave him,’” Tullin said.
“He knew there was nowhere for me to go, and I knew that,” she continued. “I was raped, and then I had to say, ‘Can we now talk about my pain? Can I now get my refills?’”
When Tullin eventually began seeing new doctors, she learned Cruciani had been overdosing her on the anesthetic lidocaine, which no other doctor was willing to prescribe.
“I think the act of committing suicide really was about his own self-preservation,” she said.
“We will never get to look at him and just be able to read our words to him and tell him — in our own voices, in our own words — what harm he has caused us.”
His sentencing had been scheduled for Sept. 14.