The death of a Davie mother who stopped breathing during liposuction three days ago is a tragedy that should prompt the state to make surgery offices safer, her family and attorney said Tuesday.
Maria Shortall, 38, was a healthy domestic housekeeper who went to Alyne Medical Rejuvenation Institute in Weston to have fat removed from her midsection on Saturday, the family's attorney, Michael Freedland, said at a news conference.
The family does not know what went wrong. The family is not now blaming Alyne. Freedland called on the state to toughen the rules to ensure that all cosmetic surgery offices can handle life-threatening emergencies. Shortall is the third cosmetic surgery patient whose death has come to light in Broward County since Christmas.
"No one should have to go through the pain my family is feeling," said Shortall's daughter, Vania Briones, 15, as she stood with her brother Renzo, 12. "My brother is too hurt to say anything. We only hope that this is the last tragedy like this. We ask that someone take action, that some elected official in the state do something."
An attorney for the surgery office and Shortall's surgeon, Alyne co-founder Dr. Alberto Sant Antonio, declined to comment on her death.
"We're investigating it," said attorney Steven Lubell. "I share [the family's] sentiment that something like this shouldn't happen."
The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating the circumstances of the death. An autopsy has been done but no cause of death has been determined, and results are pending, police said. The Florida Department of Health, which oversees physicians and physician surgery offices, declined to comment, as is customary.
Freedland said Shortall went in for "body sculpting," a procedure that Alyne's website describes as liposuction done with a thin wand to suck out the fat, using local anesthesia so patients remain awake.
The family does not know when the surgery started. At 3:10 p.m., Alyne called for an ambulance because Shortall had stopped breathing during the procedure, police said. She was pronounced dead at the hospital about 4 p.m., police said.
Freedland said the family understands that even in minor surgery, a patient can have a bad reaction to anesthesia, suffer from a blood clot or have a heart attack.
"In the safest and best circumstances, bad things happen that are beyond anyone's control," Freedland said. "We don't know what happened here."
He said the state should look into making all of Florida's physician surgery offices have the proper equipment, emergency capabilities and staff training.
Alyne is registered as a physician surgery office, where doctors are allowed to perform procedures considered minor and low risk.
Sant Antonio and his partner, physician assistant Lynne Ulevich, opened Alyne in 2004 after moving from the Baltimore area, according to state licensing and corporate records.