This case report comes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Maritess Lopez, age 36, underwent a five hour operation at the offices of Dr. Matthew Galumbeck. The procedure included a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, and liposuction and was performed under intravenous sedation at the doctor’s office. Lopez was discharged home less than one hour after her surgery.
The next morning Lopez’s sister called Dr. Galumbeck’s office and told a nurse that Lopez was experiencing fever, pain, and dizziness. The nurse responded that her symptoms were normal and likely the result of medications taken by Lopez. Later that day, Lopez was found unresponsive, rushed to a hospital, and subsequently died. Her cause of death was determined to be aspiration pneumonia. Lopez was survived by her husband and four minor children.
Lopez’s estate brought a wrongful death suit against Dr. Galumbeck, alleging improper postoperative monitoring and failure to follow up on Lopez’s postoperative symptoms. Interestingly, Lopez’s postoperative discharge sheet was completed BEFORE she submitted to the surgery.
The jury didn’t like the evidence against Dr. Galumbeck and returned a verdict of $1.95 million against the doctor.
My Take: There are two important issues here. First, cosmetic surgery can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Second, having surgery at a doctor’s office or outpatient surgery center has additional risks over and above the risks presented when surgery is performed in a hospital setting. Be a smart consumer of medical care…your life may just depend on it.