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Lap-Band clinic sued over death

Simi Valley woman is the fourth area patient to die after surgery, according to claims.

February 11, 2011|By Stuart Pfeifer | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A fourth Southern California patient has died following Lap-Band weight-loss surgery at a clinic connected to the pervasive 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign, according to a lawsuit filed by the patient's husband.

Laura Faitro of Simi Valley died July 26, 2010, five days after surgery at Valley Surgical Center in West Hills. Three other patients have died shortly after surgery at an associated center in Beverly Hills, relatives have alleged in lawsuits and interviews.

FOR THE RECORD: Los Angeles Times Friday, March 25, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 6 inches; 218 words Type of Material: Correction Lap-Band lawsuits: A Business article that appeared online Feb. 10 and in print Feb. 11 about lawsuits filed against marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN reported that the Medical Board of California, in revoking Julian Omidi's license to practice medicine, accused him of failing to disclose that he had attended UC Irvine, which expelled him in 1990, and that he pleaded guilty to commercial burglary in Orange County in 1991. Both of these accusations were made by the board, but a subsequent court proceeding found that Omidi reasonably relied on the advice of his attorneys in failing to disclose the burglary conviction, which was dismissed after he completed probation and community service. In its final order revoking Omidi's license, the medical board included references to the burglary for "historical context," but the revocation itself was based on Omidi's failure to disclose his attendance at UCI. The article also reported that in a separate action the Medical Board of California accused Julian Omidi's brother, Dr. Michael Omidi, of being "grossly negligent" in the treatment of three liposuction patients. The board did make that accusation, but Omidi settled the case by agreeing that he had violated state law by performing surgeries on three patients at an unaccredited surgical facility. The board revoked Michael Omidi's license but stayed that action for three years' probation.

Prospective patients are referred to surgery clinics after calling a toll-free number that is advertised on Southern California billboards, buses, on television and through direct mail, said Robert Silverman, an attorney who represents the two clinics and 1-800-GET-THIN, which advertises on Southern California billboards, buses, on television and through direct mail. The Lap-Band is a silicone ring that is surgically fitted over part of the stomach to discourage overeating.

Faitro, 50, was in intense pain after the July 21 surgery and sought follow-up treatment at Simi Valley Hospital, where she died, said her husband, John Faitro. He filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit Feb. 3 against surgeons Ihsan Shamaan and Kevork George Tashjian, 1-800-GET-THIN, Valley Surgical Center, Simi Valley Hospital and doctors who treated her there.

Faitro's liver was lacerated three times during the Lap-Band procedure at Valley Surgical Center, but she was discharged from the surgery center several hours later without being informed of the injury, according to the lawsuit. Faitro's death certificate lists heart failure as the cause of death, with liver laceration and morbid obesity as contributing factors.

An autopsy report said Faitro had more than 3 liters of bloody fluid in her abdominal cavity. Before her death, doctors at Simi Valley Hospital had diagnosed her with sepsis, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream, in her abdomen, according to the autopsy report last year by the Ventura County coroner. She had been treated with antibiotics, the report said.

In an interview, John Faitro said he was upset that the surgeons at Valley Surgical Center did not tell his wife that her liver had been lacerated during the Lap-Band procedure. He said he is blind, diabetic and a kidney dialysis patient, and that his wife was his principal caretaker.

"They took my wife away and they keep doing these surgeries like nothing happened," he said. "If they would have just told me [that her liver had been cut] I would have called the paramedics."

Silverman blamed Faitro's death on advanced heart disease and the care she received at Simi Valley Hospital after the surgery. He said the Lap-Band device was properly implanted.

"There is no reason to comment on the liver laceration as it was not a cause of death," Silverman said in an e-mail statement.

He continued, "It would appear that Ms. Faitro died of non-Lap Band related issues due to her extremely poor overall health condition."

Faitro's surgeons, Shamaan and Tashjian, could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Simi Valley Hospital declined to discuss the lawsuit.

John Faitro said his wife, who was 5 feet 6 and weighed about 250 pounds, began gaining weight 25 years ago when he lost his eyesight from diabetes. "She was a stressful eater. She loved tacos and sometimes ice cream," he said.

She had been looking forward to the surgery for months, her husband said.

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