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Surgery or anesthesia cited in death of rapper's mother

November 14, 2007|Rong-Gong Lin II, Andrew Blankstein and Scott Glover | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County coroner launched an investigation Tuesday into the death of rap star Kanye West's mother, who received cosmetic surgery from a prominent Brentwood doctor a day before she died.

The development came the same day the coroner's office completed a preliminary autopsy, which concluded that Donda West, 58, died "as a result of surgery or anesthesia."

Earlier this year, her doctor, Jan Adams, was served with a complaint from the Medical Board of California and state attorney general's office seeking to revoke or suspend his medical license. The officials cited his multiple criminal convictions for alcohol-related offenses since 2003.

Adams has also recorded at least two major medical malpractice settlements totaling nearly half a million dollars and has been sued by several patients in other cases, court records show.

Adams is a high-profile doctor who has appeared on such TV shows as "Oprah" and "Extra" and hosted his own plastic surgery show on the Discovery Health Channel.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were nearly 11.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures performed in the United States in 2006.

Experts note that even routine procedures can lead to dangerous or fatal complications.

West arrived Friday morning at Adams' Wilshire Boulevard office for the cosmetic surgery. The operation lasted 5 1/2 hours, after which she was sent home, according to the coroner's office.

A day later, paramedics rushed an unconscious West from her home to a Marina del Rey hospital, where she died, said an official with Centinela Freeman HealthSystem.

Coroner's officials said the investigation will include examining medical records, conducting interviews and reviewing West's medical history.

West's family declined to discuss the death, and it was unclear what type of plastic surgery she had. But a Beverly Hills surgeon said through his spokesperson Monday that West had approached him months ago about having cosmetic surgery. He said he never performed the procedure because of an undisclosed preexisting condition that might result in a heart attack.

Adams issued a statement though his spokesman, Kevin Williams, saying he sympathized with the West family but would not discuss details of the case.

"I first want to express my deepest condolences to the West family at a very difficult time," the statement said. "Out of respect for the West family and in the absence of other verifiable information, any comment from me without first discussing that information with the family would be unprofessional."

Adams' uncle, cosmetic surgeon Pearlman Hicks Jr., also declined to discuss the West case but said it could raise new awareness about the potential dangers of even the most routine forms of plastic surgery.

People "don't [know] the complications, what goes wrong," said Hicks, who has practiced plastic surgery for 25 years and is board-certified. "The public needs to be aware of the risks."

The overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased four-fold since 1997, when just 2 million such procedures were performed, according to the aesthetic plastic surgery group. The most popular procedure in 2006 was Botox injections. Among surgical procedures, liposuction was the most often performed.

Michael McGuire, vice president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said most types of plastic surgery performed at accredited facilities with board-certified doctors are safe, with one death in every 52,000 procedures. But McGuire and others said they are concerned about doctors with limited training in plastic surgery performing operations.

Adams is not certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, though state law permits medical doctors like him to perform plastic surgery even without board certification.

According to state medical board records, Adams graduated from the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1985. He was licensed to begin practicing medicine in California in July 1992.

In the last decade, Adams became a regular on the talk show circuit, discussing plastic surgery on morning television, CNN and E! Most recently, he hosted the Discovery Health Channel show "Plastic Surgery: Before and After."

Adams also sells a line of cosmetics called Dr. Jan Adams' Women of Color. The products include skin brighteners, skin lighteners, facial cleansers and microdermabrasion treatments.

On his website, Adams says he has focused his career on "the problems of today's women of color. Women of color age differently from Caucasian women and have unique skin concerns, such as hyperpigmentation, scarring and blotchy skin. Dr. Adams helps Women of color take the anxiety out of choosing the best products for their skin."

Adams faces an upcoming hearing on the possible revocation or suspension of his license.

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