Murder in the OR

Armando Soto, MD
Article by
Orlando Plastic Surgeon

If asked, I am always proud to say that the foundation on which I base my approach to the practice of Plastic Surgery is the concept of INTEGRITY. Doing the right thing- even when it would be easier to not. 

This is the reason that I am so passionate about safety, honesty, and full disclosure in plastic surgery marketing and advertising, and why I work so hard to educate prospective patients about the deceit and borderline fraud I believe they are being targeted by daily. 

Unfortunately, the news that there are doctors untrained in plastic surgery advertising and performing plastic surgery has not spread fast enough for some... I learn almost weekly of another patient's death (during a plastic surgery procedure) at the hands of a doctor later found to have been an ER doctor, a gynecologist, or some other type of doctor. 

But it seems (if I'm not being too optimistic in my interpretation) that patients and their loved ones are finally going to get their day--- 

A few weeks ago, a Phoenix area doctor was convicted of Murder and Manslaughter in the deaths of 3 patients he was performing liposuction on. He had absolutely no accredited training in liposuction, and in fact, his ACGME (American Council for Graduate Medical Education- the institution that certifies the residency training received by American Physicians) training was in Emergency Medicine. He was an ER doctor.

The prosecutor argued (and the judge and jury agreed) that, as he was clearly intelligent enough to become a physician in the first place, Dr. Peter Normann was also intelligent enough to realize that his lack of accredited training in plastic surgery and liposuction made the procedure a greater risk in his hands than in those of a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, and further, that he should have been intelligent enough to realize that advertising and promoting himself as a liposuction expert was wrong.

The logic of the prosecutor was precise in its conclusion- his performing these procedures in (what turned out to be) a poorly equipped and poorly staffed, unaccredited operating room on patients who were unaware of his lack of appropriate training and credentials constituted "extreme indifference to human life" and therefore warranted the charges of Murder and Manslaughter.

In other words, by advertising and promoting himself as a liposuction expert and performing the procedures on patients KNOWING that he was, in fact, trained as an ER doctor and not a plastic surgeon, he showed that he cared less about the patient's safety than his own success.

Now here's the thing... Before you start to think, "Dr. Soto is only interested in this story because it protects his own bottom line", please consider the following, which I will submit are my true motives..

First of all, except in extremely rare and unforeseeable circumstances, no one should die during an elective cosmetic procedure. These procedures are ELECTIVE. 

Every time one of these idiots harms or kills a patient during or after the performance of a plastic surgery procedure, (in addition to the great tragedy of the unnecessary death of a human being) it necessarily affects the reputation of the procedure, and of the entire specialty (even when the doctor responsible doesn't really belong to it!).

And I cannot accept that people will think it is acceptable that some die during liposuction (because no one should), or that liposuction is somehow risky (in the hands of a properly trained, real plastic surgeon it should be among the safest of procedures), or ESPECIALLY, that plastic surgeons place anything above their concern for their patient's safety. These unscrupulous, unethical doctors are killing people, and giving my profession a bad name as they do.

The truly frightening thing about this story (other than that it is true), is that it really is happening all over the place- and the general public is not aware.

Just last year, one of my nurses lost a sister when that sister unknowingly allowed a gynecologist to perform liposuction on her. She died the day of the procedure.

Here in Orlando, the doctor who most aggressively advertises his skills in liposuction and fat grafting has actually had zero formal training in either- he is an EYE DOCTOR.

And we are not alone in Central Florida- I guarantee that in every major community in America, there are at least a few doctors arrogant enough to think that liposuction is easy, and an easy way to make more $$...

Some (like a local gynecologist) will learn otherwise when they injure someone (without actually causing their death) and have the common sense to cease the activity. Others will not- until more prosecutors, patients, and loved ones hold them responsible. 

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones? LEARN. Read about doctors' credentials, and realize that eye doctors, ER doctors, and gynecologists do not receive the training in patient selection, technique, and postoperative management that your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon will provide. Don't be satisfied when a doctor tells you he/she is board certified- ask BY WHICH BOARD?

You would never let a doctor perform heart surgery on you if you found out he was Board Certified by The American Board of Ophthalmology (he is an eye doctor), would you? You shouldn't let that doctor perform plastic surgery on you either- surgery is surgery and the risks are real.