A woman bled to death after doctors removed 20 pounds of fat in liposuction surgery, and state authorities want to suspend the doctors’ licenses.
The Medical Board of California says Dr. W. Earle Matory Jr., an Irvine plastic surgeon, and anesthesiologist Dr. Robert Hoo are a threat to public safety. On Wednesday, the board asked a judge to temporarily stop the doctors from practicing while regulators continue to seek suspensions.
Judy Fernandez, 47, died March 17. Her blood pressure was low throughout the operation and her condition became serious after the liposuction but the doctors didn’t call 911 until two hours later, the board said.
The doctors “literally watched her die,” Deputy Attorney General M. Gayle Askren wrote in court papers.
Other doctors said 20 pounds of fat was an unusually high amount to remove. Fernandez was 5-foot-3 and 150 pounds before surgery.
After undergoing the 10-1/2-hour operation at A New You Plastic Surgery Medical Group clinic, Fernandez was taken to Irvine Medical Center. She was not breathing and had no pulse when she arrived, and clear fluid was leaking from liposuction puncture wounds.
“This is a case of gross negligence, even criminal negligence, and extreme incompetence causing the death of an otherwise normal, healthy female,” Dr. Robert Miner, an Orange County plastic surgeon, wrote.
Matory refused to comment. Hoo’s lawyer, Gilbert Jones, said his client “performed acceptably throughout” and was not responsible for the woman’s death.
During the surgery, her doctors also performed a miniface lift and brow lift and used a laser to smooth skin on her face, neck and chest.
Other plastic surgeons refused to discuss the Fernandez case but said that removing large amounts of fat at once can cause dangerous blood loss and fluid imbalance.
Liposuction is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgery in the country. The American Society of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeons estimates 108,000 suctionassisted liposuctions are done a year by plastic surgeons, and uncounted other liposuctions are done by dermatologists or other specialists.