A case currently before the courts in San Francisco is a vivid highlight of the problem of backdoor cosmetic procedures in the United States. Driven in part by the American emphasis on appearance, and in part by the state of the economy, people are opting for low-cost, invasive surgeries that are not only dangerous, but leave many victims scarred for life.
Carlos Guzmangarza, 49, has been charged with impersonating a physician and performing liposuction on an unnamed female victim. During the procedure, Guzmangarza reportedly smoked a cigar. The incident occurred at a "clinic" Guzmangarza operated in the 2500 block of Mission Street in San Francisco.
Billing his business as the "Derma Clinic," the man is accused of performing the liposuction procedure on a woman in the summer of 2010 for the rate of $3,000. Depending on the extent of the work to be performed, liposuction at a legitimate facility would cost between $2,000 and $8,000.
Guzmangarza, who was arrested on December 29, 2011, has entered a plea of not guilty. Prosecutors say he allegedly removed six pounds of fat from the "patient" and disposed of it by flushing it down the toilet. This did not occur, however, until several days after the procedure, when the suspect, in a bizarre turn of events, showed up at the woman's home with the material.
The day the surgery was performed, Guzmangarza picked the woman up at her home and drove her to his clinic. Only a local anesthetic was employed. When an infection set in and the woman sought the aid of another doctor, she learned the surgery had been a fraud. Since that time, she has required corrective surgery to repair the damage to her body.
Guzmangarza was charged with practicing medicine without a license, assault by force with the intent to cause great bodily harm, battery causing serious bodily harm, impersonation, identity theft, and grand theft. Bail was set at $750,000. If convicted, the man faces 12 years in prison.
This incident, following on the heels of a Florida case in November 2011, points to a growing problem with bogus cosmetic procedures. In Florida in November 2011, a woman was charged with injecting her patients with a mixture of tire sealant and cement to achieve butt and facial augmentations.
In a third case in Portland Oregon, in December 2011, a plastic surgery resident at Oregon Health & Science University allegedly impersonated a doctor and convinced a woman to take a pre-surgical series of medications that put her in a wheelchair.
In each of these cases, the victims were lured in by the promise of cosmetic work at cut rates. The value society places on appearance and false perceptions of "beauty" was also a contributing factor. It is imperative for anyone seeking a cosmetic procedure of any kind to make certain the doctor who will do the work is indeed a doctor and is board certified in the field. Rates that are too good to be true are a serious red flag that something is not right.
Beyond the financial fraud involved in these cases, and the fact that each person was, in some way, scarred for life, fraudulent cosmetic procedures are highly dangerous, and can prove fatal.
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Even a minimal amount of research online will show you there's plenty of misinformation out there about liposuction surgery - and, unfortunately, surgeons who may not be qualified to perform the actual procedures they offer. As with any procedure, including liposuction, make sure the surgeon you go with is board certified, has a good track record along with experience in the particular procedure you're interested in.
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