Sara Gómez, real estate agent for luxury villas in Murcia, underwent liposuction in a private center in Cartagena on December 2. But something went wrong. The cosmetic surgery lasted much longer than expected and the 39-year-old mother of two children was sent to the Intensive Care Unit of the Santa Lucía Hospital in Cartagena, where she died a month later. “He arrived at the hospital without blood and with many perforated organs,” denounces his sister, Nora Gómez, supported by the report from the public center. “Sister, I’m going to die, I won’t get out of this,” he told her before dying. The family accuses the surgeon, Javier AM, of reckless homicide and the judge has withdrawn his passport and prohibited him from leaving the country, but has allowed him to continue exercising his profession.
“Sara was a person that everyone wanted to be close to, full of life, strength, desire, at the same time simple, she liked being with her family, she had an overwhelming character, very dear and with a lot of heart, she liked to help everyone ”, says his sister. He was a lover of sports and the sea and lived in Alcantarilla, a town very close to the Murcian capital. They affectionately called her “penguin” because she loved these animals.
The woman “took great care of herself and liked to look good,” so she decided to have a liposculpture – or liposuction – done to highlight her beauty. “My sister met the doctor through social networks. He would put up spectacular photos of people whom he supposedly operated and sold very well, ”says Nora. According to his version, the surgeon explained that the operation was very simple, very fast and superficial, that in a week he would be working.
The family lawyer, Ignacio Martínez, comments that the woman contracted the operation at the Galena Clinic in Murcia, but was operated on at the Virgen de la Caridad Center in Cartagena. Sara Gómez arrives there on December 2 at eight in the morning accompanied by her partner. The intervention should not last more than three hours. But time goes by and it doesn’t end. Her nervous boyfriend asks those in charge of the center several times, who tell him that everything is fine. Around seven in the afternoon, about eleven hours later, the surgeon Javier AM informs her that they are going to transfer her to the ICU of the public referral hospital as a precaution.
However, when he arrived at the emergency department, the professionals of the public hospital confirmed that he was in shock hypovolemic, something that occurs when severe blood loss makes the heart unable to pump enough blood to the body and can affect organs. According to the medical report provided by the family, Sara underwent emergency surgery, finding multiple perforations and traumas in the viscera: necrosis of the abdominal wall, peritonitis, abscess with intestinal content, dissection of the entire retroperitoneum, gastrointestinal congestion with multiple perforations, multiple perforations intestines, perforation in the second duodenal portion with large output of bile content, ischemic necrosis of the colon …
“A surgical act that carries risks”
Diego Tomás Ivancich, member of the Spanish Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and a specialist in plastic surgery with his own center in Madrid, explains that liposuction “is a surgical act and carries risks, that is why it must be done in the hospital setting , with the presence of an anesthetist and after an exhaustive preoperative medical history ”. The technique “consists of introducing cannulas, a kind of very long pencils, through some half-centimeter incisions, which have holes at one end and are connected by a rubber that sucks, and which is used to extract fat. ”.
“The cannula has to work between the skin and the muscle, where the fat is. In the case of Cartagena, it was surely introduced into the abdominal cavity, in those cases instead of fat through the cannula, blood and other fluids come out ”, he continues. In this type of intervention, one or two liters of fat are usually removed. “The normal thing is that an operation like this lasts one or two hours, it is strange that it lasts longer,” he continues. Ivancich points out that in Spain any graduate in Medicine and Surgery who passes the exam as a Resident Internal Physician (MIR) can legally perform any surgical act, “but it would be desirable to demand the specialty of Plastic Surgery, because otherwise it is not guaranteed that they are well prepared ”.
Javier AM “is a doctor with a degree from a Spanish public university and, after the MIR, he obtained a specialization as a cardiovascular surgeon and has numerous courses and masters in cosmetic surgery,” explains one of his lawyers, Pablo Martínez. The lawyer points out that the surgeon has been performing this type of operation for several years and that he has not received any complaint for intrusion.
During her stay in the hospital, Sara was accompanied by her parents, her two brothers and her two children, as well as other relatives. “With a small voice, he told me, ‘sister, all my organs have been perforated and I won’t get out of this, I’m going to die,” says Nora. At first, the family filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office for injuries, and after the fatal outcome, they filed another in the court for reckless homicide and asked the judge to withdraw the passport and disqualify the doctor from the profession. The judge summoned him to testify last Tuesday and, before his absence, issued a search and arrest warrant.
According to his lawyer, Javier AM, who has Chilean and Spanish nationality, was outside of Spain when the duty judge tried to summon him. “My client had left the country before he passed away. She was suffering significant harassment and tried to get away from the situation, she was even being threatened by some people around Sara, although not by her family. One person even sent him a private message threatening to stab him, ”says Pablo Martínez.
The surgeon appeared on Wednesday in the Cartagena court. “I’m sorry for everything that happened and I fully trust justice,” said Javier AM upon leaving the court. The head of the investigating court number 2 of Cartagena, acting as guard, decided that same day to withdraw his passport and prohibit him from leaving Spain, but rejected the disqualification, according to sources from the Superior Court of Justice of Murcia. “A suspension of the exercise of the profession is only provided in criminal law as a penalty after a conviction,” says the order. The doctor’s lawyer comments that the location order has been terminated and Javier AM is free and can continue to practice his profession. The accused of reckless homicide refuses to give his version of the operation, which will be told in court, as will Sara Gómez’s partner and the Santa Lucía Hospital in Cartagena.
The relatives have opened a group on Facebook, Sara’s voice, to encourage each other and look for other possible malpractices related to the same surgeon. This Wednesday, relatives, friends and neighbors of Murcia held a silent rally to remember her in Sewer carrying posters with her face. Nobody can explain why a simple operation turned into a nightmare.