Anyone read about the women from San Diego, who had under went the Lap Band and died a few hours later? It was in the local paper, the Union Tribune. I thought PEOPLE SHOULD BE AWARE OF THE DOCTOR PERFORMING THE SURGERY. It seems like he possibly had two cases of death.
TIJUANA — Cheronna Marie Williams, who worried about her weight for years, thought she had finally found a solution. Together with a friend, she headed to Tijuana for stomach-banding surgery, a procedure that normally takes less than an hour.
Williams, a 33-year-old from Chula Vista, did not survive the May 26 surgery.
This week, Williams’ family filed a complaint with the Baja California Attorney General’s Office against Dr. Pedro Kuri, a Tijuana physician with years of experience in Lap-Band surgery who operates at a top private hospital. The office has launched an investigation.
“I have never been explained what really happened to my daughter and why,” her mother, Phyllis Ackerman-Gainer, said from her home in the Eastlake community. Gainer said even though Kuri has delivered the news by phone and in person in Tijuana, she still wonders about the cause of death and how it could have happened.
Williams’ death comes as Mexico is preparing a major campaign to promote medical tourism among U.S. and Canadian patients in search of lower-cost medical care. Baja California’s tourism secretariat said medical tourism generated about $89 million in revenue for the state last year as an estimated 455,000 foreigners came for a broad range of procedures, from bariatric surgery to dental work to LASIK eye surgery.
Both the Mexican government and medical leaders have been trying to ensure a consistent, high-quality standard of care. Across Mexico, nine hospitals are now certified by Joint Commission International, a branch of the U.S. nonprofit Joint Commission that accredits and certifies medical facilities and services.
Authorities in Baja California said they also are working to bolster patient’s rights by giving more visiblity to the state’s 15-year-old Medical Arbibration Commission, which takes up the cases of dissatisfied patients and negotiates solutions with doctors.
At a Thursday conference in Tijuana, Yolanda Revetti, a 69-year-old cosmetologist from Escondido, praised the commission for fighting on her behalf after a dental procedure went awry. The commission arranged for another dentist to fix the damage.
“Thanks to them, I am smiling again,” Revetti said.
Several thousand U.S. patients — an exact number is not available — come to Baja California for stomach-banding surgery each year, according to health experts there. Kuri alone performed the Lap-Band procedure 900 times in 2010, according to state health officials.
Lap-Band and similar procedures involve placing an adjustable device around the top portion of the stomach during laparoscopic surgery.
Mexico’s death rate for stomach-banding surgery could not be obtained. The figure for the United States is about one in every 1,000 cases, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Alan Wittgrove, head of the Wittgrove Bariatric Center in La Jolla and director of metabolic surgery at UCSD Medical Center, said “What patients need to do is their homework, and go to a place that has the right facilities, the properly trained doctors.”
But ultimately, he added, ““Even good surgeons can have complications. There’s no question about that.”