Two South Florida doctors accused of seriously injuring patients during botched liposuction surgeries — and who have worked at separate times for the same group of clinics in Miami where at least three patients have died in the past year from similar procedures — faced disciplinary hearings before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday in Fort Lauderdale.
The medical board, which oversees all licensed Florida physicians, voted to revoke the license of Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu, a Miami cosmetic surgeon accused of injuring four women in May 2015 during liposuction and so-called Brazilian butt lift procedures.
Omulepu did not attend Friday’s hearing. But Monica Felder-Rodriguez, his attorney, said Omulepu would appeal the decision in state court, which can overturn the medical board’s rulings.
Felder-Rodriguez had argued that the Florida Department of Health, which prosecuted Omulepu for medical malpractice and failing to keep appropriate records, denied the doctor his due process by considering evidence that wasn’t included in the state’s complaint. And she said the state administrative law judge who heard Omulepu’s case in October wrongly inferred guilt from the doctor’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
“It’s inappropriate, unfair and a violation,” Felder-Rodriguez said.
But the board ultimately voted, 7-4, to revoke Omlepu’s license, which he has held since 2007. Omulepu can continue practicing medicine until the board formally issues its order, which typically takes about a week.
In a separate liposuction case, Ricardo Martinez, a patient, stood before the medical board and lifted his black-and-white patterned shirt to show the panel a large scar running the length of his stomach.
“I want to demonstrate and show everyone the type of pain and suffering that I went through,” Martinez, 54, said, “and something that I will have to live for the rest of my life.”
The scar, Martinez said, was the result of emergency surgeries he received at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center following a botched liposuction at an office clinic in January 2013.
Martinez, who lives in North Miami, said he was hospitalized for 21 days for sepsis and surgeries to repair punctures to his small intestine and colon and a tear in his abdominal wall — all caused by a liposuction procedure, he said.
The doctor who allegedly botched his liposuction, Amaryllis Pascual, sat at a table next to Martinez but did not turn to look at him as he accused her of ignoring his pleas for help as he became increasingly ill after the surgery.
“I fought very hard for the last four years to stay alive,” Martinez said, pausing at moments to control his emotions. “But Dr. Pascual’s unethical and deceitful practices just make me want to give up at times.”
After Martinez’s testimony, the board peppered Pascual with questions: What type of training had she received in liposuction? Why did she perform surgery on a patient considered high risk, who was obese and had diabetes and HIV?
Pascual, who has since closed the Aventura-area clinic where she operated on Martinez in 2013, said she now works at Eres Plastic Surgery, a Hialeah clinic where a Missouri woman died in March after receiving a liposuction and Brazilian butt lift from a different doctor.
The clinic, which changed names in October, is part of a network of cosmetic surgery centers in Miami-Dade and Broward owned and operated by Ismael Labrador, a South Florida physician, and Aimee De la Rosa, his ex-wife — both of whom signed an agreement with the Florida Attorney General promising to abide by consumer protection laws and pay refunds to customers whose deposits were never returned.
Omulepu worked for the clinics at the time he’s accused of injuring the four women in May 2015. Pascual did not say when she began working for Eres, but she told the medical board that her training in cosmetic surgery included “multiple courses” including online classes and training supervised by board certified plastic surgeons.
Pascual’s attorney, Allen Grossman, had told the board that Martinez’s HIV was “well controlled for 20 years” as was his diabetes. Grossman also said Pascual had performed the proper screening of Martinez.
Board member Steven Rosenberg asked Pascual how she explained the injuries to Martinez.
“I reviewed the case with the surgeons that I work with and other surgeons that do not work with me,” Pascual said. “I conclude that I did not recognize a hernia that Mr. Martinez had.”
Martinez said he has never been diagnosed with a hernia.
In the end, the board fined the doctor $10,000 and restricted her from performing any more liposuction procedures until further evaluation.
Pascual refused to comment after the meeting. She has seven days after the board enters its order to appeal.
Martinez said he felt vindicated: “I was surprised that they actually listened to my story, especially since I thought it was going to be a tap on the wrist, and she was going to get away with almost murdering me.”
Martinez sued Pascual in 2014 for negligence and liability, though the doctor does not carry medical malpractice insurance, according to state records.
Pascual then filed for bankruptcy in 2015. In February a Miami-Dade judge awarded Martinez a $1 million judgment against Pascual. Martinez doesn’t think he’ll be able to collect.
“No chance,” he said.