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State Wants Judge to Put Doctor Out of Business

Medicine: Complaint terms well-known plastic surgeon 'unfit and dangerous,' citing the death of a woman patient during an 11-hour liposuction 'marathon.'

May 02, 1997|BONNIE HAYES and PETER NOAH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

IRVINE — The Medical Board of California will ask a judge today to shut down the offices of a prominent Irvine plastic surgeon accused of performing a deadly "one-day marathon" of liposuction procedures on a La Habra woman.

William Earle Matory Jr.--a well-known surgeon who has appeared on television talk shows as a cosmetic surgery expert--is "unfit and dangerous" and "must be stopped," according to a complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court by the state attorney general's office.

"We must ensure the safety of the public," said James Kovash, a state medical board investigator. "It doesn't help the victim in this case, of course, but we hope it protects the people who may unknowingly endanger themselves."

Judy Fernandez, 47, bled to death March 17 during an 11-hour procedure that cost $20,000 and involved the suction of about 20 pounds of fat from six parts of her body, according to the complaint.

Matory also performed a mini-face lift, laser skin resurfacing, an eyebrow lift and then injected some of the suctioned fat back into Fernandez's buttocks and calves for reshaping, according to the state's complaint.

Fernandez was encouraged by Matory to have all nine procedures performed at once, offering a discount if she agreed, according to Ruben Fernandez, the dead woman's husband. Matory assured the couple the operation would be safe despite its length, according to court records.

"He said he has performed longer surgeries on 60-year-olds," Ruben Fernandez said in an affidavit filed with the complaint.

Medical Board officials will seek a temporary restraining order today against Matory and his anesthesiologist, Robert Ken Hoo of Huntington Beach.

Hoo's lawyer, Gilbert Jones, denies his client is responsible for Fernandez's death.

"This is a very tragic case, but Dr. Hoo performed acceptably throughout," Jones said. "He feels very bad about the result. It was not of his doing."

Matory, through his attorney Steven D. Hillyard, declined comment Thursday.

The complaint filed in court by Deputy Atty. Gen. Gayle Askren said Matory was ill-prepared for the daylong procedure and continued despite obvious signs that Fernandez was having trouble.

The doctor did not have extra blood at the clinic and failed to type the patient's blood beforehand, according to the state's complaint.

Hoo is accused in the state's complaint of allowing the procedure to continue, failing to closely monitor the patient's vital signs, and agreeing to wait nearly two hours after Fernandez's obvious decline to call an ambulance.

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Dr. Jeffrey A. Klein, a San Juan Capistrano dermatologist who has performed several thousand liposuction procedures, said liposuction is safe when performed correctly.

The danger, Klein said, comes when doctors remove excessive quantities of fat, which can cause complications, including severe bleeding in a patient.

Matory received a California medical license in 1981 but only recently began his practice at A New You Plastic Surgery Medical Group on East Yale Loop in Irvine. He has never been disciplined by the Medical Board of California, a spokeswoman said.

The Howard University graduate was sued four times by patients in Massachusetts, where he taught and worked at the UMass Medical Center for 11 years. None of the cases resulted in disciplinary action.

Matory has received acclaim for his research into the definition of beauty in non-whites and has been extensively profiled in the media.

In 1990, the National Medical Assn. established the William E. Matory, M.D. Annual Lecture in his honor, and he has served as president of the Massachusetts Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Some physicians who heard of the case Thursday questioned Matory's medical judgment.

"He was trying to do too much at one time," said Larry Seifert, a California Society of Plastic Surgeons and UCLA faculty member.

Deaths related to plastic surgery are rare. Experts could only recall two other such deaths in Orange County. Both involved women who fell into coma after breast enhancement surgery.

Times correspondent Jeff Kass, librarian Sheila Kern and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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