What Does Proposed Liposuction Bill Mean For Florida Plastic Surgeons?

A new Florida bill aimed at making liposuction procedures safer is making its way through the Senate in Tallahassee. The bill was created as a result of the deaths of four South Florida mothers in their 30s during liposuction procedures, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Present state rules say physician surgery offices must be inspected by the state Department of Health or accrediting organizations, unless the doctor performs procedures using only local sedatives that leave the patient awake. Cosmetic surgeons who perform liposuctions using local sedatives such as lidocaine do not have to have their offices inspected.

The bill says that any liposuction that removes more than 1 liter of fat can only be done in a regulated office. This would cover most liposuctions. It would force most liposuctions to be done in surgery offices inspected by the state, by doctors with life-support training, not in unregulated physician offices.

However, some doctors think that the legislation doesn’t go far enough. It does not ban liposuction in physician surgery offices, as some proposed. It does not force med-spas to be regulated, as Sobel proposed in bills that failed in the past. It does not force doctors to use an anesthetist for all liposuctions.

The bill has cleared the Senate Health Regulation Committee and now goes to the Senate Budget Committee, where it is expected to pass. A similar bill is pending in the state House and no opponents have come out against it so far.

The bill was filed by state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood in reaction to four South Florida liposuction deaths since 2009.

Maria Shortall, 38, died when her bloodstream was blocked by fat sucked from her midsection and reinjected into her buttocks at an unregulated physician office. Kellee Lee-Howard, 32, died of drug interactions in the hours after a liposuction at the same office, and Rohie Kah-Orukotan, 37, died of an overdose of lidocaine given during liposuction at an unregulated medical spa. Another Miami woman was killed from a fat blockage after liposuction at a licensed surgery center.

Disciplinary action is pending against the doctor involved in the first two cases; the doctor in the third case has surrendered his medical license. No disciplinary action has been taken in the fourth case.

According to the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons, which backs the bill, it won’t be expensive for the state to regulate these offices. Additionally, the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons hopes inspections will detect doctors who may be using local sedatives, such as lidocaine, for extensive liposuctions that should warrant stronger sedatives and more safety measures. Those measures include advanced life-saving training and having an assistant give anesthesia.

While no one has come out vehemently opposing the bill, if passed it will have some consequences for plastic surgeons who don’t update their practice to comply.

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