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Liposuction Doctor Has License Revoked

Medicine: Board decision says Patrick Chavis was grossly negligent in the care of seven patients.

August 26, 1998|JULIE MARQUIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Medical Board of California revoked the license of a Lynwood obstetrician on Tuesday, calling him grossly negligent in his care of seven liposuction patients--including one who bled to death after he abandoned her bedside.

Dr. Patrick Chavis' license should be pulled "to protect the public," according to a 28-page decision accusing the physician of violations ranging from botching procedures to allowing his nurse to practice medicine.

Chavis' license had been suspended since June 1997, but the board accused him of violating that order as well by keeping his office open and advertising his medical practice.

The much-publicized case, filed by the medical board more than a year ago, led to pleas for greater oversight of cosmetic surgery in California. It also inflamed the debate over affirmative action in professional schools.

Chavis, who is African American, had been admitted to UC Davis Medical School in 1973 under a special minority program later successfully challenged by white applicant Allan Bakke. As the debate over implementation of Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action measure, simmered last year, some cited Chavis, who had portrayed himself as an affirmative action success story in the media, as an example of the policy's dangers. Defenders of the policy said affirmative action should not be judged by one man's performance.

Chavis could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. In sometimes rambling e-mail messages to The Times over the past year, Chavis accused the medical board of racism. He also blamed others for his troubles--an administrative law judge, a deputy attorney general, a local hospital, a malpractice attorney, even his patients and their family members.

The medical board, "after an investigation which has lasted a year, has uncovered evidence that clears me of wrongdoing yet they are continuing to persecute me because of my race," he wrote in one electronic message in October.

Many of the patients Chavis treated at his Lynwood clinic--including Tammaria Cotton, the 43-year-old patient who died--were, like him, African American. Many were low-income women who paid discounted rates in cash.

According to the medical board decision, which follows a lengthy administrative hearing on the charges, Chavis made several mistakes in his care of Cotton in June 1996. One was leaving her in his office after surgery, groggy and leaking a "red liquid" from her incisions, to check on another gravely injured liposuction patient recovering alone in his Compton home. According to the board's decision, Chavis did not even leave instructions with his registered nurse to monitor her pulse and blood pressure.

Cotton's husband, Jimmy, who accompanied her to the office, tried to put his wife in a wheelchair but she was unable to lift her head. She went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing despite the nurse's attempts to revive her. Though she took some breaths again later that night in the hospital--a finding that led Chavis to argue that she could have been saved--the board's decision states that it is unlikely she could have recovered because she had been apparently lifeless for 2 1/2 hours.

Three other liposuction patients suffered either massive blood loss, infection or both, according to the decision by Administrative Law Judge Humberto Flores, which was adopted by the board.

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