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Poorly Executed Cosmetic Procedures Can Leave Lasting Damage

Posted: February 27, 2007

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The redness subsided, but each burn drained the pigment from her skin, leaving Miles open to further skin problems should she ever expose the affected areas to the sun.

"I now have what looks like zebra stripes everywhere," Miles said. "I'm restricted from a lot of activities and types of clothing. It's terrible."

Miles' experience is hardly unique. In the past few years, reports of fraudulent or shoddy cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures have grabbed headlines:

  • In 2003, New York City financial analyst Maria Cruz died after a fatal reaction to lidocaine, delivered by Dean Faiello, a 46-year-old from Newark, N.J., who had been posing as a cosmetic surgeon. Faiello fled to Costa Rica but was apprehended by U.S. authorities in 2006 and is now in prison.
  • In 2004, four people in Florida became paralyzed after Bach McComb, an osteopath with a suspended license, administered lab-strength botulism toxin -- not the much weaker Botox -- to himself, his girlfriend and two others. McComb was later sent to prison for three years.
  • In 2005, a 46-year-old California woman died of multiple organ failure after receiving a buttock injection of what had been billed as a "French polymer" but was actually cooking oil. The beautician who delivered the shot, 39-year-old Martha Mata Vasquez, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January.

It's tough to tell how often these types of dangerous procedures are being performed in the United States, experts said.

"I think that, especially in big cities, it's more common than you think, because I see lots of patients with problems who have been treated in hotel rooms, for example," said Dr. Rhoda Narins, past president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) and a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.