Florida Liposuction Deaths Put Non-Board Certified Plastic Surgeons in the Spotlight

A Miami doctor who is not a board certified plastic surgeon allegedly caused the deaths of two patients who underwent <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/medical_malpractice">botched liposuction procedures at the Alyne Medical Rejuvenation Institute. According to a report from USA Today, both women underwent liposuction procedures performed by Alberto Sant Antonio, one of a growing number of doctors who were trained in other medical specialties, such obstetrics, but who branched out to the more lucrative field of plastic surgery.

Maria Shortall, 38, and the mother of two, died in June. According to the Miami Herald, she was having a cosmetic procedure done at Alyne Medical Rejuvenation Institute in Weston when an employee noticed she was not breathing. She was pronounced dead later that day at the Cleveland Clinic.

Kellee J. Lee-Howard, a 32-year-old mother of six, was found dead by her husband on Valentine’s Day 2010, one day after undergoing liposuction at the hands of Sant Antonio. A lawsuit filed by her family claims Lee-Howard died because Sant Antonio botched her anesthesia. A board certified plastic surgeon who is serving as a an expert witness in her family’s lawsuit told USA Today that there was so much lidocaine in Lee-Howard’s body that it showed “a basic misunderstanding of the principles of pharmacology and patient safety.”

According to USA Today, Sant Antonio was trained as a general surgeon, but was never board-certified in any area of medicine. He worked at a Baltimore hospital before he settled a malpractice lawsuit in 2004 and moved to Miami. In addition to performing discount-rate liposuction procedures himself, Sant Antonio offered three-day liposuction training at his office for the last few years, USA Today said.

Sant Antonio is not the only non-board certified doctor performing cosmetic procedures such as liposuction in Florida. According to USA Today, Florida health officials alleged that Omar Brito — whose training was in occupational health — was doing cosmetic surgery without enough training or the proper equipment. He has been implicated in the death of Rohie Kah-Orukotan, who died following a liposuction procedure that wasn’t approved as an office surgery. She underwent her procedure at Weston MedSpa, which also offers manicures. State medical records show Brito has since surrendered his medical license.

“It’s out of control,” Florida state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat who is vice chair of the Senate health regulations committee, told USA Today. It’s all about people doing a job they’re not qualified to do.” Sobel plans to reintroduce a bill she introduced last year to regulate so-called med-spas as medical clinics, which would subject them to inspection.

According to USA Today, an absence of regulation in many states allows a licensed medical doctor to perform any procedure a patient wants done. The field of plastic surgery is attractive to many because it offers little oversight or interference from insurers (most patients pay for such procedures out-of-pocket) and pays big money.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which certifies plastic surgeons, requires years of training in hospitals under the guidance of more senior physicians, USA Today said. ABMS member boards include the American Board of Plastic Surgery. No other cosmetic surgery boards, including the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is affiliated with ABMS.

Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, typically complete year-long fellowships or private training, USA Today said. Unfortunately, few patients understand the difference. According to USA Today, they often tout certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and other cosmetic surgery boards in their advertising.

Unfortunately, few consumers are aware of this distinction.

“Boards are assembled so you can say you are board-certified,” Randy Miller, a plastic surgeon who heads the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons, told USA Today. “No one is pretending to be a heart surgeon, no one is pretending to be a pediatrician, but everyone’s pretending to be a plastic surgeon.”

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