As young New Yorker Beverly Brignoni became the victim of low-cost surgeries in the Dominican Republic, the dangers are slowly being uncovered. Brignoni, 28 years old, died on February 20 while getting a tummy tuck and liposuction. Doctors say she died of a massive pulmonary embolism.
Although the death of a patient is rare, concerns about the cosmetic surgery business in the Dominican Republic have grown, as more cases of infections and negligence are becoming known. On March 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert after at least 19 women from various states in the U.S. had reported to have suffered from serious bacterial infections following cosmetic surgeries in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Douglas Esposito, medical officer at the CDC, says, “These bacterial infections have often been caused by contaminated medical equipment and to treat the infection, it may be required to undergo another surgery to remove damaged tissue and to drain fluids. It typically takes a long time for patients to recover from this.”
In 2013, there were more than 1,000 cosmetic surgeries performed in the Dominican Republic and 60 percent of patients were foreigners. Medical tourism has become increasingly popular, as most clinics offer cosmetic surgeries at much lower prices compared to clinics in the U.S. Additionally, patients will often add a holiday after their surgery; however, the dangers of low-cost surgeries that are slowly being uncovered could potentially affect the reliability of clinics in the Dominican Republic.
Brignoni was referred to the Vista del Jardin Medical Center by some of her friends in New York. Lenny Ulloa, boyfriend and father of her 4-year-old daughter, says, “It was supposed to be a high-end clinic.” The doctor who performed the surgery was Guillermo Lorenzo and was listed as a certified surgeon by the Plastic Surgery Society.
While Lorenzo continues his practices, Brignoni’s family demands clarity as to what happened during the procedure. Her boyfriend Ulloa has hired Juan Linares as a lawyer, who is currently waiting for reports of the autopsy that was conducted.
Dr. Braun Graham, plastic surgeon in Sarasota, Florida, says, “Brignoni arrived late in the evening due to a delayed flight and was supposedly on the operating table the next morning. One of the main concerns is if she received a proper medical evaluation prior to the procedure. Additionally, sitting on a plane for several hours can cause blood to stagnate in the legs. This increases the risk of an embolism.”
Brignoni’s family says that she lost 80 pounds last year, following a gastric bypass surgery. To start her new life, the New Yorker initially planned to have a tummy tuck, liposuction and breast surgery; however, shortly before departing for the Dominican Republic, she decided to not have a breast surgery. Lorenzo assured her she would receive a partial refund for the $6,300 she had paid.
The district attorney’s office for Santo Domingo, where Lorenzo’s clinic is located, has not yet started an investigation against the clinic, as they state no official complaint has been received from Brignoni’s family. After the death of Beverly, her family thinks the dangers of low-cost surgeries in the Dominican Republic must be uncovered, and the family says they will file a complaint soon.
By Diana Herst