A 40-year-old woman from Louisiana on Thursday became at least the fourth patient to die since 2013 from complications of cosmetic surgery at a South Florida clinic — a trend that has raised alarm among public health officials about the dangers of popular procedures such as liposuction and the so-called Brazilian butt lift.
Kizzy London of Baton Rouge died at Jolie Surgery Center on 8504 SW Eighth St. The surgery was performed by Dr. Arnaldo Valls, a family doctor who is not board certified in any specialty and carries no medical malpractice insurance, according to his physician profile maintained by the Florida Department of Health.
In a statement titled, “Dr. Arnaldo Valls sends his prayers to his patient’s loved ones,” Valls offered condolences to London’s family. The statement also said that, “All standard pre-operative procedures were administered.”
In 2016, a procedure known as Brazilian butt lift or BBL, in which a surgeon augments the buttocks with fat grafting, was the sixth most popular plastic surgery in the U.S., according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery. A total of 18,489 of the procedures were performed that year, the ASPS reported.
Representatives of Jolie did not immediately return a message left on Friday with an answering service for the clinic, which advertises its main offices at 1303 Southwest 107th Ave., which is registered with the health department as a massage establishment.
Valls’ statement said London went into cardiac arrest toward the end of the surgery, and that the clinic’s medical staff tried to resuscitate her before calling 911. London was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, Miami-Dade Police said.
In the statement, Valls said that surgeries carry risks and that he has performed thousands of surgeries with “a clean record.” Valls did not identify the type of surgery London received, but NBC 6 reported that London, a mother of two, was having an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, a surgery to make the abdomen thinner and more firm.
That’s the same procedure that Maria Christian, a 32-year-old mother of two from Ecuador, had performed at the same clinic in September 2016 when she also went into cardiac arrest and died. At the time, the clinic was called Vanity Cosmetic Surgery.
The clinic was later rebranded as Eres Plastic Surgery, and last summer it changed names again to Jolie Plastic Surgery. It’s unclear if ownership of the clinic has changed.
Two other patients have died from complications of cosmetic surgery at the Southwest Eighth Street clinic, including Maribel Cardona, a 51-year-old mother of five in 2013, who underwent a liposuction and gluteal fat grafting, also known as a Brazilian butt lift or BBL.
During the procedure, surgeons use a metal rod called a cannula to suction fat through a surgical incision, plunging the instrument in and out of the patient’s body. For a BBL, the fat is treated and then grafted to the buttocks through surgical incisions.
Cardona’s surgeon was Dr. Anthony Hasan, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of prescription drug fraud in December 2010. Hasan, who was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution, also works for Jolie Plastic Surgery, along with Valls.
In June 2014, an unidentified patient died at home after undergoing a liposuction and BBL surgery at Vanity, according to records kept by the health department.
In addition, the clinic’s founder, Dr. Ismael Labrador, and his ex-wife, Aimee De La Rosa, agreed to refund more than $200,000 in deposits to customers in October 2016 under an agreement with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, which agreed to drop an investigation into customer complaints about the clinics.
Labrador’s clinics have been linked to numerous patient deaths and injuries in the past, and in 2007, Miami-Dade prosecutors charged him with employing unlicensed doctors at a clinic he owned called Picasso.
The string of patient deaths at South Florida cosmetic surgery centers, including one in June involving a 30-year-old mother of six from Illinois, is fueled in part by promises of lucrative paydays for licensed doctors who perform surgeries for which they are not trained or board certified, said Dr. Pat Pazmiño, a board certified plastic surgeon and president of the Miami Society of Plastic Surgeons.
“These deaths are preventable because these surgeries are being performed by physicians who are not plastic surgeons, and they’re certainly not board certified,” Pazmiño said.
Pazmiño said he attended a local conference sponsored by a medical device maker that promised doctors they could make $2,000 in 30 minutes performing liposuction and other procedures.
“That’s very tempting for doctors that are not plastic surgeons,” Pazmiño said. “What you have are these equipment companies that are very aggressively marketing and encouraging doctors to perform procedures outside their specialty. The doctors are told there’s very little risk, it’s very easy, it’s very quick. None of those things are true. But they perform these procedures that they have no training in, and the patients are the ones who are paying the price.”
Pazmiño urged plastic surgery patients to check their doctors’ board certification at certificationmatters.org, a website maintained by the American Board of Medical Specialties. In addition, Pazmiño said, patients should ensure that their plastic surgeon has hospital privileges to perform procedures at a hospital as well as their office clinic.