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    Plastic Surgery Malpractice Death Exposes Problem of Uninsured, Unregulated Medicine

    Plastic Surgery Death Exposes Continued Problem of Uninsured Fly-By-Night Plastic Surgery Clinics 

    John Leighton


     The death last month of a 29-year-old West Virginia woman who traveled to South Florida for plastic surgery highlights a critical problem in Florida medicine.  There is almost no oversight and surgeons and medical facilities are not required to carry malpractice insurance.

    Seemingly unbelievable to most people, doctors who prescribe potentially deadly drugs or who perform surgery of any kind do not have to carry insurance.  In fact, most surgeons in Miami-Dade County practice medicine “bare,” a term used to describe doctors without insurance.  Because Florida does not require insurance of physicians, most have been counseled in ways to shield their personal assets.  “Asset protection” for doctors has become a cottage industry. Florida has one of the most debtor-friendly laws in shielding personal assets from lawsuits and creditors.

    That means if the doctor who put you in a wheelchair because of a medical mistake ends up on the losing side of a malpractice lawsuit, you likely will have no way to collect anything.  The doctor’s home is protected, as is his retirement plan, primary car and any assets jointly owned by a spouse. Most doctors lease their office space and equipment. They have few tangible assets to claim if you have a judgment against them.

    So what about the doctor who operated on the woman at Encore Plastic Surgery in Hialeah?  The three physicians practicing at Encore are uninsured (Orlando Llorente, James McAdoo and Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu).  The Florida Department of Health records for an inspection this year showed that the facility failed to perform pre-operative screenings, failed to properly monitor vital signs, and tended to use general anesthesia where local anesthesia should have been employed.  General anesthesia is much more dangerous and is best used by an anesthesiologist.

    Facilities like Encore perform surgeries but are not hospitals, where complications can be monitored and treated.  Encore is not even an ambulatory surgery center, which, while not having the same standards as a hospital, are still subject to some oversight.

    According to Miami Herald statistics, there have been 75 deaths in Florida between March 2000 and July 2014 from office surgeries. Of that number, 34 were cosmetic procedures.

    So what is a prospective cosmetic surgery patient to do?

    First, get multiple opinions from board certified plastic surgeons.  Check them out online.  Find out if they have been disciplined.  Find out where the procedure is to be performed and what type of anesthesia is going to be used.  Make sure you are cleared for the procedure by your primary care physician ahead of time, to make sure that you do not have any conditions that might place you at high risk.  If so, you may want to have the procedure performed in a hospital or consider skipping it.

    The one thing that is missing is still financial responsibility.  Until the State of Florida requires doctors to be financially responsible for their mistakes, the deaths will likely continue. That is because the Board of Medicine does almost nothing to prevent these medical mistakes from occurring.  Without malpractice insurance, doctors will not be sued for their errors. Without financial responsibility such as malpractice insurance, doctors will never be held accountable for medical mistakes.  And given that preventable medical mistakes are the 3rd leading cause of death in America, it might be something we want to consider.

    Otherwise, let the body count continue.



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