Georgia Doctors Performing In-Office Surgeries

With social media setting a precedent for beauty trends and body image, the rate of cosmetic procedures and surgeries is on the rise. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2018, 1,811,740 individuals had plastic surgery, and 15,909,931 individuals had minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures done. With the increasing market desire for Botox, liposuction, tummy tucks, chemical peels, and laser hair removal, doctors are offering more affordable options for clients in the convenience of their offices.

In the state of Georgia, it is not illegal for a doctor to perform plastic surgery in his or her medical office. In fact, there are more cosmetic operations done in offices than in regulated hospitals. Dermatological centers and medical spas perform procedures without adequately trained staff or surgeons to properly administer anesthesia or know the basics of cardiac or cardiovascular life support. Furthermore, they don’t have to comply with standard hospital rules and regulations for equipment and sanitation. Therefore, in the case of an emergency, most staff members in these offices are unequipped and unable to care for the individual lying on the operating table properly. This was what unfortunately occurred in the case of Icilma Cornelius, a patient whose heart stopped during a cosmetic procedure.

Patient’s Heart Stops During Plastic Surgery

In 2016, Icilma Cornelius went to Premier Aesthetic Center in Lilburn, Georgia for a consultation with Dr. Windell Boutte. Cornelius wanted a boost of confidence two months before her wedding day, hoping to look perfect in her white dress. She was instantly drawn to Boutte’s accreditations, reviews, and experience online advertising the doctor as “Atlanta’s most experienced cosmetic surgeon.” However, after a more than eight-hour procedure on February 18, 2016, for liposuction and a panniculectomy, Cornelius went into cardiac arrest and panic ensued in the disguised “operating room.”

Dr. Boutte’s office was unequipped with the proper equipment and her staff was untrained for the emergency situation. Boutte had an employee suture Conelius’ surgery site to prevent infection, and because the building elevator was too small, Cornelius had to be carried down the stairs on a stretcher. Due to her lack of oxygen and delay in transportation to the emergency room, Cornelius suffered permanent brain damage. She never got the dream body she was hoping for, and needless to say, she was never able to make it down the aisle for her wedding.

Over the last several years, Dr. Boutte was hit with waves of criticism and medical malpractice lawsuits for botched procedures and her infamous public videos taken from the operating room. Boutte has been widely recognized on national television and social media as “the dancing doctor,” known for posting videos of her patients lying sedated on the operating table while she and staff members danced and rapped to music playing in the background. In the uncensored videos, Boutte is seen to be pointing at, pinching, and slapping her patients’ bodies while they were unconscious. In some instances, she is dancing while holding flesh taken from a patient’s body. All of her videos were directly posted on social media uncensored. While the doctor gained negative attention for her disturbing videos and marketing ploys, she receives most criticism for her dangerous practice operations and false advertising.

Although Boutte was a board-certified dermatologist, she was not a board-certified plastic or general surgeon –even though she advertised as such on her website. Boutte graduated from UCLA School of Medicine, went to Emory University Hospital to complete her residency, and became board certified by the American Academy of Dermatology. However, Boutte was unqualified to handle surgical emergencies and unequipped with the proper tools and assistance she needed that day.

Other Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Georgia

Dr. Boutte is not the only Georgia physician facing complaints and lawsuits in the world of cosmetic surgery. In 2013, Dr. Nedra Dodds medical practice license was revoked after two patients died at her facility. Dodds ran and operated  Dodd’s Opulence Aesthetic Medicine Practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.

In 2013, a client, April Jenkins, went in for a fat transfer procedure. She was given the maximum amount of sedatives, but shortly into the surgery, Jenkins was reported to have woken up from the cocktail mix of drugs given to her and was screaming in pain before she finally died on the operating table. Just a few months later, another client, Erica Beaubrun, was found dead at the aesthetic center after a butt reduction procedure.

The Medical Board of Georgia found Dodds guilty of failing to provide the standard of care for her patients; her license was immediately revoked. Dodds and her assistant were initially charged with two counts of murder, aggravated battery, and theft by deception.  However, these criminal charges were eventually dropped; the civil case is still pending.

In Georgia, while physicians are legally permitted to offer certain cosmetic surgical procedures in their office, it does not mean they are certified in that particular field of medicine.

Board Certification and Georgia’s Loophole on Surgical Practices

Medical Board certification is not an easy-to-achieve feat. To become board certified in plastic surgery is one of the most difficult processes and accomplishments in the field of medicine. After four years of undergrad and another four years of medical school, students wishing to continue their education in plastic surgery have to finish a surgical internship with 80 hour work weeks. Then they devote another 5-7 additional years in surgical residency to specialize in a particular field of plastic surgery.

Plastic surgeons who practice in the context of a hospital are limited to what they can do based on their credentials. If a surgeon is not a licensed and board-certified anesthesiologist, he or she will certainly not be allowed to administer anesthesia to his or her patient. While many cosmetic and minimally invasive procedures can be performed at dermatological offices or medical spas without any negative repercussions, surgeons are specifically trained for several years to handle emergency events. In a hospital setting, surgeons have access to the right tools and equipment needed to handle the unexpected. In Georgia, while physicians are legally permitted to offer certain cosmetic surgical procedures in their office, it does not mean they are certified in that particular field of medicine.

The Georgia Composite Medical Board has safety guidelines for doctors who wish to perform surgeries in their office; however, these are suggested guidelines, not rules. The guidelines highly recommend those physicians who wish to perform in-office surgeries to get accreditation which would set certain criteria and standards for the facility and staff. However, the accreditation process can take time and is costly which leads to more private-practice physicians taking matters into their own hands at the risk of their patient’s safety.

While many cosmetic and minimally invasive procedures can be performed at dermatological offices or medical spas without any negative repercussions, surgeons are specifically trained for several years to handle emergency events.

Checking Physician Certification Before Laying on the Operating Table

Dr. Windell Boutte faces up to nine malpractice lawsuits, having settled five so far. While her false advertisements and marketing tactics drew many clients through her doors, she negligently operated on multiple patients in a facility unequipped with proper medical devices and knowledgeable staff for emergency situations. Furthermore, Boutte failed to comply with the Medical Board guidelines stating that an incident leading to a patient’s death or transport to a hospital should be reported.

Doctors like Boutte still practice in the convenience of their private facilities. And while it is not illegal for them to do so, you should take precautions when considering a cosmetic or surgical procedure in a setting other than a hospital. Affordability is no measure to the skillset of your surgeon and the safety of your life. Before considering a procedure in a non-hospital setting, you should consider looking the physician up prior to your visit on the ABMS Certification Matters website. Don’t solely rely on reviews and be tricked by false advertising.

Plastic surgery malpractice can result in tragic outcomes; in some instances, even death. Victims of unlicensed doctors or physicians who operate in ill-equipped facilities can suffer from permanent disfigurement or traumatic health injuries for the rest of their lives. Medical malpractice can make it difficult to carry out your normal day-to-day activities.

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