Las Vegas Plastic Surgery
Multi-Agency Task Force to Educate Public and Prosecute Unlicensed Backroom Doctors and Dentists
Every major city has had deaths occur due to unlicensed individuals “practicing” medical procedures, including several Nevada cities. In Las Vegas, 42 year old Elena Caro received injections into her buttocks in an unregulated, unlicensed “clinic” behind a tile shop. When complications arose, she was put out on the street where she begged people to call 911. She died later in the hospital. The coroner ruled the cause of death was due to local anesthetic overdose. The “practitioners” were arrested at the airport, attempting to board a plane for Columbia.
Soon after the above incident, after receiving a complaint about strange activity and people coming out of a house with bandages, police found people dressed in surgical scrubs inside a southwest Las Vegas home. Prosecutors say a New York woman was performing eyelift surgeries in a Las Vegas living room. Patients were taken to a hospital. The woman, 55, was arrested. She told officers she had been a doctor in China. She does not have a medical license in Nevada.
In Reno, a person hospitalized with life-threatening complications from a botched dental procedure told police about a man practicing dentistry in a nondescript mobile home. Police say the “practitioner”, 56, claimed he was a dental assistant in another country. He does not have a Nevada dental license. He also had a prior conviction in 2006 for practicing dentistry without a license. He was known in the Hispanic community for giving “bargain rates”.
What circumstances create the need for unlicensed healthcare providers? There seems to be an over-representation of Hispanic and lower socio-economic groups that fall prey to these “practitioners.” There are many reasons for this including language barriers, cost, uninformed recommendations, and access to education and awareness about qualified health care providers.
“Every group that is uninsured and underinsured is vulnerable to this situation,” said Atzimba Luna, a Consulate of Mexico community affairs officer in Las Vegas who tracks the issue. “There are real health needs that are not being really addressed, and people are trying to address them by going to these places. It’s common knowledge that fake doctors market their services in the Spanish-language community, Luna said. “Particularly regarding cosmetic surgery, it’s very difficult to know where to go for a certain procedure if you don’t know someone who has been there.”
What makes this even more unfortunate is that language is not a barrier in Las Vegas plastic surgeon offices, as every office can and does accommodate Spanish speaking patients.
Nevada state health officials are trying to cope more effectively with phony providers. Former Nevada state Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa is heading a task force examining the issue, and the Latino Research Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, has been commissioned to document reports of unlicensed care in the state’s Hispanic community.
Nevada has issued its report on these problems. The recommendations are far reaching and include interaction and cooperation between various branches of public health, academia, medicine, and law enforcement. A multi agency task force has been formed in order to facilitate awareness.
A program to educate the public has been created and funded. The program includes information in English and Spanish and is called the Campaign Against Illegal Medical Practices in Nevada. They have developed some very nice brochures describing what to look for, as well as a list of legitimate medical clinics, and access to health care options and plans.
Anyone who suspects unlicensed medicine being practiced can report it anonymously simply by dialing 2-1-1. The information will be taken seriously and acted upon. The state health officer’s office, attorney general’s office, and various health agencies have made this a priority. In the past, there was confusion as to which board or government entity had appropriate jurisdiction and enforcement options. This has now been clarified.
We all agree this is a serious health issue that is now rampant across the country. Every major city, (New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, etc;) has reported a death due to unlicensed, unregulated procedures being performed. Anyone who reads my plastic surgery blog knows that we have raised this issue time and time again. It is our hope that the findings in the report spell out the importance of this issue. We also hope that the recommendations, now put into action, will have the intended effect of saving lives. We hope that Nevada can be a model for this issue.
Jeffrey J. Roth, M.D., F.A.C.S.