One woman died and two others suffered serious health complications after plastic surgery operations in Tijuana, Baja California, on January 29, according to a report by the San Diego Union Tribune.
Dr. Jesús Manuel Báez López, director of Art Siluette Aesthetic Surgery, performed the ill-fated procedures.
Keuana Weaver, mother of two young children, traveled across the border with nurse Kanisha Davis for liposuction and tummy tucks. Weaver died on the operating table and Davis was hospitalized for two weeks in California after projectile vomiting and internal bleeding.
“If I hadn’t gone into the hospital when I did, I would have died … I was slowly bleeding to death. I was weak,” Davis said.
Another woman, Esmeralda Iñiguez, underwent surgery on the same day, and had to be rushed over the border to a U.S. hospital on February 3.
“He tightened my abdominal muscles too much, squishing all my organs together and cutting off blood supply to my kidneys, causing something called abdominal compartment syndrome,” said Iñiguez.
“I was so septic by the time I reached the ER in Chula Vista on February 3 I was literally hours from death. My kidneys were shutting down,” she added.
Health inspectors at the Federal Commission for Protection Against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) closed another cosmetic clinic run by Báez in 2015.
Báez’s website does not list qualifications as a plastic surgeon, but says he obtained a master’s degree in “aesthetic surgery” in 2011 from the Institute of Higher Studies in Medicine, Xalapa, Veracruz, in 2012.
Dr. Gilberto Montfort, a plastic surgeon in Baja California and member of the Mexican Association of Plastic Surgeons, says Báez’s training does not qualify him to operate.
“[Aesthetic surgery is] not really even surgery … It’s like Botox. They advertise it as aesthetic surgery, but it’s not actually surgery,” he told the Union Tribune.
“To practice liposuction, you have to be a plastic surgeon,” Montfort added.
Baja California’s Ministry of Sustainable Tourism (SEST) estimates the cosmetic tourism industry has tripled in recent years, from 800,000 medical tourists in 2014, to 2.4 million in 2018, which generates annual revenue of more than US $1.7 billion.
It is encouraged by Mexican authorities. In 2011 a “Fast Lane” was introduced at the Tijuana border, where travelers registered with Mexican doctors were processed more quickly.
Keuana’s mother, Renee Weaver, said no one from Baja California has contacted her to collect information about her daughter’s death.
“I’m heartbroken. I want to know what happened,” she said.
“Keuana was a very independent woman; a good, loving, smart and very intelligent Black woman … That doctor took a lot from me and my family and I most definitely have to have her story out there …. I’m mostly sad this happened to my daughter because she was already so beautiful to me, inside and out, she just couldn’t see it,” she added.
A letter provided by Renee Weaver shows the clinic offered to refund the $6,700 cost of Keuana Weaver’s surgery.
Báez did not respond to multiple requests for comment nor did Baja California’s health minister.
Cosmetic tourism to Tijuana has been flagged for danger in the past. In 2019, a U.S. health authority issued a warning after 11 citizens who had weight-loss surgeries in Tijuana returned home with infections.
“We’re working very hard to make sure that doctors who are practicing without the proper credentials are immediately shut down and are investigated by the attorney general,” said Atzimba Villegas, the state director of medical tourism.
“It’s essential for the entire industry that patients feel safe and are well cared for and get the results they are looking for.
Montfort recommends that patients consult the Mexican Association of Plastic Surgeons to ensure the doctor is a member before surgery.
Source: The San Diego Union Tribune