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Call for better regulation of cosmetic surgery industry after gastric band death

July 1, 2008

The family of an Irish woman who died hours after undergoing cosmetic surgery has called on the Government to improve regulation of the industry

Bernadette Reid died hours after an operation to fit a gastric band at the Advanced Cosmetic Surgery clinic in Dublin.

An inquest, in June 2008, heard that the 48-year-old mother, who weighed 20 stone, died suddenly due to an abnormal heart rhythm.

Other conditions and her weight also contributed to her death.

Monitors attached to Mrs Reid, of County Wicklow, were not working properly and her GP had said she wasn’t suitable for the operation, the hearing was told.

Dr Siobhán McCabe, said her patient was over-weight and had chronic asthma. She had strongly advised Mrs Reid against having the operation. ‘She (Mrs Reid) was unfit because she had never been as heavy as she was at the time and her lungs were very bad,’ the doctor said.

‘I never spoke to the clinic. I would have said she was a high risk for surgery.’ The court heard Mrs Reid twice denied suffering from breathlessness when questioned by doctors at the clinic.

Anaesthetist Dr Al Ashbal, who assisted in the procedure, said he was aware Mrs Reid suffered from asthma. He examined her in the hour before surgery but there was nothing in her case notes which required him to talk to her GP.

French-based surgeon Dr Jerome Manuceau said he had carried out the 2,000 euro gastric banding procedures and this was the first fatality.

He told the inquest: ‘Surgery without risk doesn’t exist and with every operation you can have death.’

He told the court that obese people are ‘risky people’ and that when he first started working in Ireland no anaesthetist wanted to work with him ‘because it’s too risky’.

‘But unless we operate, [morbidly overweight people] die,’ he said.

However, Michael Reid criticised procedures at the clinic.

‘We feel there wasn’t enough consultation done on my mother with her local GP and there was an apparent lack of consultation between the main surgeon and the anaesthetist,’ he said.

‘Also we discovered the monitor which my mother was hooked up to wasn’t working so although she had passed away it was still recording a pulse.’ Nurse Nancy Kelly told the inquest that Mrs Reid was making a good post-operative recovery in the hours following the procedure on February 27, 2007.

Mrs Reid had received medication for pain relief including morphine from Nurse Kelly and another nurse who monitored her throughout the night. Her vital signs remained good at all times, except for an incident around 2am on the morning of February 28 when her oxygen saturation levels dropped due to an oxygen probe becoming loose.
However, at 4.15am on the morning of February 28, the alarm was raised when it became evident Mrs Reid had no pulse.

Nurse Kelly told the court that the machine, which reads pulse and oxygen saturation levels, should have set off an alarm when Mrs Reid stopped breathing, but it continued registering after she died.

Anna Louise Kellett, director of clinical services at ACS, which is now in liquidation, said the equipment was brand new and had been calibrated.

She said Mrs Reid’s death was the first occasion that a patient had died in 13 years of operation. However, she said that in four other cases patients had to be transferred to hospital due to complications.

Tanveer Jaleel, founder and senior partner of TJL Solicitors, said patients should think very carefully before going under the surgeon’s knife.

‘Cosmetic surgery operations, such as gastric banding, are very serious, invasive procedures,’ he said.

‘Anyone thinking of such surgery should investigate the surgeon and clinic very carefully. ‘We are seeing far too many cases where people are suffering at the hands of poorly managed and equipped clinics or inadequately qualified doctors.

‘Politicians need to step in and better regulate the industry to stop such tragedies, like that affecting the Reids, from happening to another family.’

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