Dr. Carlos Chacon, a cosmetic surgeon in San Diego County, was recently charged with murder in connection with the death of a patient in January of 2019. According to the accusation on file with the Medical Board of California, Dr. Chacon performed a bilateral breast augmentation on his 36-year-old female patient, Megan Espinoza, on December 19, 2018. During the procedure, Ms. Espinoza’s blood pressure dropped and her heart rate suddenly increased. Within approximately two hours after the surgery began Ms. Espinoza went into cardiac arrest. Incredibly, 9-1-1 was not called for approximately three hours after CPR commenced, and Dr. Chacon reportedly attended to four other patients while Ms. Espinoza was in dire straits. After languishing in the hospital for about one month, Ms. Espinoza died on January 28, 2019, of a hypoxic brain injury. According to news reports, Dr. Chacon was originally charged with manslaughter, but the charge was upgraded to murder upon the discovery of new information relating to his care of Ms. Espinoza. Regardless of whether he is convicted of murder or not, it would appear Dr. Chacon committed plastic surgery malpractice.
The murder charge against Dr. Chacon must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and it must be shown that he acted with a conscious disregard for human life. However, in order to prove the doctor committed malpractice in a civil lawsuit it must only be shown by a preponderance of evidence (a much lower standard) that Dr. Chacon was negligent in his care and treatment of Ms. Espinoza. Based on the facts as alleged in the Medical Board accusation, it would appear the doctor at least failed to act reasonably under the circumstances, which amounts to negligence under the law.
What is Plastic Surgery Malpractice?
When a plastic surgeon fails to use the level of skill, knowledge, and care in the diagnosis and treatment of a patient that other reasonably careful plastic surgeons would use in the same or similar circumstances they commit “malpractice”. The required level of skill, knowledge and care is known as the “standard of care” for plastic surgeons. When there is a breach of that standard and such negligence causes harm or death to a patient, the careless surgeon can be held liable in a malpractice lawsuit. Unlike other types of civil injury cases, a medical malpractice case against a plastic surgeon requires the expert testimony of an expert plastic surgeon who can establish the treating doctor was negligent. In the context of plastic surgery malpractice, there are a variety of things the surgeon can do to breach the standard of care: performing too much surgery at once, performing extensive cosmetic procedures on a patient who didn’t really need surgery, causing a spinal fluid leak during a nose job, performing too much liposuction, failing to adequately treat an intra-operative or post-operative complication, etc. If negligence occurs, then the law requires that such malpractice cause (to a reasonable, medical probability) harm or death to the patient. These are the elements needed to succeed in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Make Sure Your Surgeon is Qualified
One thing fairly unique about plastic and cosmetic surgery malpractice cases is that the surgeon may not even be qualified to perform the subject cosmetic procedure in the first place. It is not uncommon to find a “cosmetic surgeon” or even someone claiming to be a “plastic surgeon” who was actually trained in a completely different area of medicine. For example, in the case above, Dr. Chacon holds himself as a plastic/cosmetic surgeon, but it does not appear he is actually board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Ideally, if you are planning on having an elective cosmetic procedure (breast augmentation, body lift, thigh lift, face lift, etc.) your surgeon should be board certified by the ABPS. It is not uncommon to find OB/GYNs, ENTs, osteopaths, and even family practitioners holding themselves out as cosmetic or even plastic surgeons. In spite of being under-qualified, some of these doctors undertake complicated cosmetic procedures, at great risk to their patients.
Contact an Experienced Plastic Surgery Malpractice Attorney
If you were injured or a loved one killed by a negligent plastic surgeon, seeking the advice of an experienced malpractice attorney is likely the best first step to take toward obtaining compensation for the injuries and damages suffered. Mr. Ralph has more than 30 years of experience at handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases in Orange County and the Southern California area. His office is centrally located in Orange County for the convenience of his clients. Mr. Ralph’s services are provided on a contingency basis so if there is no recovery there are no fees. He can be reached for a free consultation by calling the number below or simply sending a message with the details of your potential case.