Medical board chairman warns of plastic surgery risk

By Christine Sexton, The News Service of Florida
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Plastic surgery is becoming a public health risk, the chairman of the state’s medical licensing board said during a meeting in South Florida Friday.

Florida Board of Medicine Chairman Steven Rosenberg said state health officials need to educate the public about the risks of plastic surgery and how the dangers can increase when procedures are performed by physicians who aren’t qualified.

“I think it’s imperative that the Department of Health try to educate the public,” Rosenberg, a West Palm Beach dermatologist, said during Friday’s board meeting. “They need to recognize the fact that cosmetic procedures aren’t always safe. They need to be much more selective about the physicians that do these procedures.”

Rosenberg said that complaints following botched plastic surgery have become such a problem that the number of complaints the Board of Medicine has heard in the last year now outnumber complaints related to the overprescribing of highly addictive opioids.

The Board of Medicine regulates physicians but is not involved in public health campaigns, a task left up to state health officials.

“Over and over again, the common denominator is that people doing these procedures are inadequately trained,” Rosenberg said. “And, unfortunately, the public is at risk.”

Plastic surgery in Florida has been in the spotlight in recent months after reports by USA Today and the Naples Daily News revealed a high number of deaths stemming from procedures known as “Brazilian butt lifts.”

This spring, state lawmakers approved a measure aimed at increasing regulation of plastic surgery procedures performed in physicians' offices. The new law authorized Florida medical boards to develop rules to administer the registration, inspection, and safety of an office performing office surgery. 

The Board of Medicine also issued an emergency rule in June that prohibits the injection of fat into or below the gluteal muscle. Doctors who violate the emergency rule will have their license immediately revoked.

But Rosenberg said the emergency rule doesn’t cover all plastic surgery procedures. The public needs to be more aware of physicians who may not have the proper training but are eager to offer services that can be lucrative, he said.

Rosenberg’s remarks followed the Board of Medicine’s decision to reject a proposed settlement agreement that would have imposed a $15,000 fine and a reprimand on Andre Brooks, a Spring Hill doctor whose patient died following a liposuction treatment. The settlement, reached by board staff and Brooks’ lawyer, also would have required the doctor to take continuing medical education courses.

Instead, the board voted Friday to impose tougher sanctions on Brooks, including a six-month suspension of his medical license and more hours of continuing education.

Brooks, a cardiologist, has seven days to consider board’s offer.

In 2017, Brooks’ lawyer told the Board of Medicine that the doctor was no longer performing liposuction and did not intend to perform the procedure in the future, and that Brooks had never been sanctioned during his 38 years of practice.

The sanctions approved Friday, which would permanently ban Brooks from performing liposuction, stem from a Dec. 12, 2017 procedure Brooks performed on “C.N.,” a 67-year-old patient.

According to documents made public by the Board of Medicine, Brooks released the patient the same day with instructions that she return to his office the following week.

Although the patient contacted Brooks’ staff regarding pain and nausea, she never returned for a follow-up visit.

Less than two weeks after the procedure, C.N. went to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a bowel perforation, urinary tract infection, septic shock and renal failure, among other ailments.

According to state records, the woman’s health continued to decline and, after a series of surgeries, she died on May 28, 2015.

News Service of Florida