Fatal Plastic Surgery Case Results in $3.1 Million Settlement, but Jury Returns Verdict in Favor of Non-Settling Anesthesiologist

This post was authored by Brian Nash and posted to The Eye Opener on May 12th, 2010.

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In March of 2005, Kathleen Cregan left her home in Limerick, Ireland to embark on a journey to the United States. She was heading to New York where she underwent a face lift by Dr. Michael Sachs. Wanting this surgery to be a surprise for her husband, she had told him that she was leaving home for a few days to attend a business course in Dublin.

Just hours after the completion of the face lift procedure, Ms. Cregan collapsed in the clinic bathroom from a blood clot that had formed overnight, which had passed from her pharynx into her trachea. Ms. Cregan quickly developed breathing problems and went into cardiac arrest, which resulted in brain damage.  Ironically, as the New York Times reported, Ms. Cregan later died on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Her family sued Dr. Sachs, as well as an anesthesiologist, Dr. Subbaro,  and a nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, who were part of the medical team, for malpractice in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Dr. Sachs’s settled his portion of the lawsuit for $2.1 million last month. The case involving the nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, was settled for $1 million on Friday. Dr. Subbaro proceeded to trial remaining steadfast that he was not negligent in his care of this patient. Even though the nurse had settled, the issue of her liability was submitted to the jury for determination.

The plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Subbaro had left the clinic and turned-over Ms. Cregan’s post-procedure care to Nurse Alonzo-Francisco, who, plaintiffs alleged, did not know how to utilize an endotracheal tube to alleviate breathing difficulties. It was also claimed that Ms. Alonzo-Francisco failed to dial 911 in a timely fashion.

The verdict: “late Friday afternoon, a six-member jury cleared [Dr. Subbaro] of responsibility in Ms. Cregan’s death. Jurors, who began deliberating on Friday morning, did not know of Ms. Alonzo-Francisco’s settlement, so they delivered verdicts exonerating her of responsibility as well. The settlement, however, will stand.”

So how did this lady, who lived on a farm in Ireland, come to be a patient of Dr. Sachs in New York?

Ms. Cregan found out about Dr. Sachs after reading an article about him in The Sunday Independent of Ireland, her family said. The article described him as “a leading cosmetic and facial reconstruction surgeon” in the United States, with a “highly confidential client list.”

But here’s what she didn’t know when she consented to his operating on her:

The article did not mention that Dr. Sachs had settled more than 30 malpractice lawsuits. But he was known as a master of generating publicity, even appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” twice in the early 1990s. Dr. Sachs surrendered his license to practice medicine in 2008.

We have addressed this very issue of ‘Top Doctor’ does not necessarily mean best doctor. You simply need to do some homework on whom you are choosing to care for you or operate on you. Be an advocate for yourself – ask questions, don’t be embarrassed to do so. If  you have the time, do some research on the person you are entrusting with your health and perhaps even your life.


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