Patient dies during BBL surgery: Physician without surgical privileges allegedly punctures organs

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published March 15, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • A Nashville woman died during plastic surgery performed by a physician who did not have surgical privileges. 

  • The physician was hired as the cosmetic center’s resident physician but acted as the surgeon for multiple patients.

  • Patients and their families were told the physician had surgical privileges. 

Erica Russell of Nashville, TN, was 33 when she traveled to Coral Gables, FL, for a Brazilian butt lift procedure at the Seduction Cosmetic Center. John Sampson, MD, was Seduction Cosmetic’s designated physician. He was not a designated surgeon. However, he performed Russell’s Brazilian butt lift on June 16, 2021. Multiple organs were punctured during the procedure, and Russell died a few hours after it began.[] 

Russell’s family filed suit against Seduction Cosmetic Center in March 2024. According to the suit, both Seduction Cosmetic and Dr. Sampson told Russell that Dr. Sampson had cosmetic and plastic surgery privileges. In a 2020 letter to the Florida Health Department, Dr. Sampson stated that he did not perform any surgical procedures. His official duties at the cosmetic center involved ensuring the facility’s compliance with health and safety standards.[]

Allegedly, during surgery, Dr. Sampson punctured Russell’s abdominal walls and internal organs multiple times, including perforation of her liver, intestines, and bladder. Reportedly, Dr. Sampson also incorrectly placed fat injections. About two hours into the surgery, Dr. Sampson placed a fat deposit that blocked Russell’s blood flow, leading to a fatal cardiac arrest.[] 

According to the suit, Russell wasn’t the only patient Dr. Sampson surgically treated between April and June 2021. On June 16, Russell was one of seven patients Dr. Sampson performed surgery on during a single 14-hour shift. The lawsuit names both Dr. Sampson and Seduction Cosmetic.[][] 

Multiple violations

Gretel Jardon and Luis Jardon own Seduction Cosmetic Center. However, the Florida Department of Health has determined that because he served as the designated physician, the responsibility for violations at the center falls to Dr. Sampson. Investigators for the board found multiple violations at Seduction Cosmetic, including:[]

  • Post-operative follow-up for one or more patients completed by an unlicensed staff member who signed as a nurse practitioner or physician.

  • Surgeries performed by a physician not registered with the Department of Health to perform office-based surgery.

  • Physicians listed on the registration who were no longer employed at the facility.

In September 2022, the state fined Dr. Sampson $20,000. He was banned from performing procedures involving grafting gluteal fat and serving as a designated physician at any surgery center. In January 2024, Dr. Sampson was fined an additional $8,000 and required to take a five-hour medical law and ethics class.[] 

According to the Florida Department of Health license verification tool, Dr. Sampson’s medical license is still active. He is also still listed as a practitioner for Seduction Cosmetic Center.[] 

Misrepresented qualifications and malpractice

Russell’s family alleges that Seduction Cosmetic Center and Dr. Sampson falsely advertised Sampson’s position at the center. This suit isn’t the first time a physician or practice has been charged with false advertising. Misrepresenting or overstating qualifications or scope of practice in any marketing materials could be considered false advertising. Malpractice cases around the country have included charges of false advertising. 

Rich Cahill, vice president and associate general counsel of the Doctors Company, the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, says that ensuring accurate advertising is important for any healthcare practitioner or facility. 

“A recurring concern confronting clinical providers, especially since the advent of the Covid pandemic, involves the marketing of services, products, and personnel,” Cahill said.

“The qualifications, including the education, training, work experience, licenses, certifications, and particular areas of expertise of the physicians, dentists, and advanced practice providers must be correct and detailed without any embellishment, leaving no room for misinterpretation. The types of care and treatment being offered should be identified utilizing simple terminology and avoiding unnecessary technical parlance or vocabulary,” he continues.

Cahill cautions that violations can be considered fraud and might not be covered under your malpractice insurance policy.

“Policies providing coverage against malpractice may not be applicable or enforceable for such violations depending upon the language of existing exclusions and limitations set forth in the insurance contract,” explains Cahill, who goes on to say that consequences for false advertising can go beyond a single malpractice case. 

“Disgruntled patients may file a complaint with the practitioner’s state licensing agency which may, in turn, lead to adverse results for the provider such as revocation, suspension, economic fines, probation, and negative publicity, all of which may be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and hospital credentialing committees, producing damage to the licensee’s reputation that may require years to repair at a significant cost,” Cahill says. 

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