Liposuction Malpractice Lawsuit Highlights Risks of Cosmetic Surgery

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a Florida woman who died after receiving liposuction from a non-certified surgeon highlights the risks associated with discount plastic surgery procedures. 

Kellee J. Lee-Howard died on Valentine’s Day in 2010, the day after receiving liposuction by Alberto Sant Antonio, who is one of a growing number of physicians who were never board-certified to perform plastic surgery but have decided to go into the practice anyway.

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Lee-Howard’s family in Broward County Circuit Court claims that Sant Antonio improperly administered an anesthesia known as lidocaine, which eventually caused her death.

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Sant Antonio was barred from performing surgery earlier this summer after a second patient, Maria Shortall, died during liposuction in his office at the Alyne Medical Rejuvenation Institute. Shortall reportedly went into cardiac arrest during the procedure.

A complaint with the Florida health department claimed that Sant Antonio was not properly monitoring Shortall’s vital signs, did not have a crash cart in the room to help resuscitate her quickly, failed to establish an airway to provide Shortall with oxygen, failed to quickly diagnose she was suffering from cardiac arrest and only provided CPR for the 10 minutes it took for an emergency medical services (EMS) team to arrive.

In both cases, the plaintiffs say that Sant Antonio was not qualified to administer anesthesia and had no one on hand who was qualified, nor was he prepared to deal with the side effects of anesthesia, all violations of Florida law and the laws of most states.

Unfortunately, cases like this are not rare. In recent years, a number of noncertified plastic surgeons have been advertising for patients, many of whom use lidocaine, a local anesthetic, in their procedures without the proper training.

Rohie Kah-Orukotan died last year after receiving liposuction at the Weston MedSpa by Omar Brito, who was trained in occupational health, not plastic surgery. According to a complaint filed against Weston MedSpa and Brito a year ago, Kah-Orukotan died of lidocaine toxicity, which was also blamed for the death of Lee-Howard.

The problem has received national attention following the death of Donda West, the mother of rapper Kanye West, in 2007 following surgery by a plastic surgeon who was not board certified. Since then, a number of non-certified plastic surgeons have lost their licenses, faced medical malpractice lawsuits and in some cases have even been jailed, but the number of discount plastic surgery clinics has continued unabated.

In July, Dr. Peter Normann of Phoenix, Arizona, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter¬†in connection with three deaths during liposuction and fat-transfer surgery procedures at his office. Two of the victims died due to the anesthesia during surgeries performed by Normann, and a third died from a fat embolism during a procedure performed by a homeopathic surgeon in Normann’s office. Assistants during Normann’s surgeries included a janitor and a massage therapist.

Normann was sentenced to 25 years in prison last month. He originally fled Arizona after his license was revoked in October 2007 and was apprehended at an Ohio airport a year later.

1 Comments

  • Concerned CitizenJuly 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Ironically, board certified plastic surgeons can do the most harm: the risks of liposuction radically increase when combined with concommitant surgery (such as breast reduction, breast augmentation, or tummy tuck) which increases surgical time, excessive trauma to the body, third space swelling issues, and so on. Also, liposuction surgery that combines liodocaine and epinephrine with general anest[Show More]Ironically, board certified plastic surgeons can do the most harm: the risks of liposuction radically increase when combined with concommitant surgery (such as breast reduction, breast augmentation, or tummy tuck) which increases surgical time, excessive trauma to the body, third space swelling issues, and so on. Also, liposuction surgery that combines liodocaine and epinephrine with general anesthesia can more easily set the stage for toxicity. The problems with liposuction are not simply credential issues to be sure, they are procedural issues. There are no long-term studies that prove that liposuction is physiologically sound. There are, however, scientific studies that show that liposuction negatively affects metabolism and creates an increase in visceral fat, which has negative impact on long-term health. No central database currently exists in which to follow with the true number of deaths and iatrogenic injuries caused by liposuction. Clients speak out by the thousands in online blogs telling how their bodies have been disfigured (many of these blogs include photos), and detailing all manner of health complications due to liposuction surgery, from excruciatingly painful skin adherence to the underlying structure, to disturbing patterns of weight re-distribution, to chronic numbness, and continued burning and/or shooting pain, and so on. It's my understanding that a doctors oath is to 'first, do no harm.' Doctors are not informing their patients of the role that brown and white fat play in protecting the body surfaces, regulating hormones, supplying energy, and so on. Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School says: 'We are only now beginning to understand fat.' That being so, bear in mind that surgeons (board certified or not) stick cannulas into peoples bodies and simply guess how much fat to suction out. Their best guesses often result in over-rection to the point where the surgeons are now being trained in fat grafting to try to correct the problems created by liposuction. Surgeons don't have any definitive way to measure the fat they suction out, or to truly understand the long-term health ramifications of what they are doing to their patients bodies, however, they insist that because they were able to take some tests and get their medical degree, that gives them the right to take guesses with the healthy bodies of the patients who unknowingly believe their hype about liposuction. Patients move forward with the surgery in good faith because we live in a culture that places the doctors word far above the fray. There exists a Consensus Gentium Fallacy with regard to liposuction that hasn't been adequately challenged yet. Surgeons that are performing liposuction in a time when the mechanisms of fat metabolism are just beginning to be understood, are unnecessarily placing the health and lives of their patients at risk. Unfortunately, given that several major US stock indices are affected by liposuction consumption, a lot of financially powerful people are invested in covering up the truth about this harmful surgery.

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