Clinics and other facilities that perform cosmetic surgeries in Baja California have come under increased scrutiny after the death last week of a 37-year-old woman undergoing liposuction in Tijuana.
The death of Lilian Carolina Gastélum, the mother of three children from ages 7 to 11, allegedly occurred when she was having a Brazilian butt lift on July 27 at a clinic called Beauty Diagnosis in the busy, upscale Zona Río shopping area.
On the facility’s website, a Brazilian butt lift (BBL) is offered as part of a “Mommy Makeover” and several other surgery packages.
One local newspaper reported that last week’s death was the third such fatality this year at a cosmetic surgery facility in Tijuana — “one of the capitals of medical tourism and international cosmetics,” it added — and another reported it was the second. Regardless of the correct figure, it was enough to send the state’s health protection commission (Coepris) into action.
Beauty Diagnosis, which had previously been cited by Coepris in 2021 for not having proper permits, was suspended shortly after Gastélum’s death — bringing to 23 the number of similar clinics in the Tijuana area that have been suspended so far in 2022 for bad practices, fake doctors, and/or lack of proper permits and documents.
Erwin Areizaga Uribe, the state Coepris commissioner, said inspectors immediately went to Beauty Diagnosis after being notified of Gastélum’s death and shut it down “due to lack of documents.” Apparently there was no open investigation or active suspension of the facility despite it getting into hot water last November.
Areizaga also said that Coepris will become more proactive going forward and not wait for fatal cases to occur.
“It is clear to me that this should not happen and that is why we will increase our performance as a verification institution,” he said. However, he did stress that it won’t be Coepris, but rather the state Attorney General’s Office (FGE), that will investigate Gastélum’s death and whether negligence was involved.
Coepris, meanwhile, will continue to review all aspects of Beauty Diagnosis, such as clinical records, maintenance logs of surgical equipment, and documents that certify the medical and nursing staff.
The family of the woman who died at there was up in arms last week over irregularities and being kept in the dark, telling the Punto Norte newspaper that it will “sue the responsible doctor for wrongful death and negligence.”
The family reported that Lilian entered the operating room shortly before 10 a.m. for BBL liposuction, a popular procedure that takes a couple of hours. Lilian’s sister, Karen, apparently stayed at the clinic, asking “every half hour” how her sister was doing, “and the doctors answered that everything was going well.” Around 12:15 p.m., the doctor “came out of the operating room and gave a thumbs up.”
However, Karen said she began to feel that something wasn’t right. She felt the procedure was taking too long, and she also noticed that some women who entered the operating areas for breast implants came back out without having had any procedure performed. She allegedly was told that their surgeries were called off because “the medical devices were not working well.”
Karen told Punto Norte that as late as 3:15 p.m. staff told her that her sister was fine and the surgery was almost done, but at 3:30 p.m., she was told to go into the recovery area and speak with the doctor, who allegedly told her that Lilian had died between 2 and 2:30 p.m. due to complications. Karen said Lilian was a healthy woman, without any chronic diseases and had undergone all preoperative exams.
Zeta Tijuana reported it was the second fatality at a cosmetic surgery clinic in recent weeks. The first was suffered by María José Chacón Herrera at the Jerusalem Hospital, a private facility in Playas de Tijuana, “which was supposed to have been suspended from Jan. 31.” Chacón was the wife of Henry Ortiz, the Guatemalan consul in Denver.