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    Florida plastic surgeon charged in wife's death after procedure at his office

    By Brandon Girod, USA TODAY NETWORK,

    27 days ago

    Dr. Ben Brown , the Florida plastic surgeon accused of the death of his wife Hillary Brown , turned himself into the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office Monday after a judge signed an arrest warrant last week.

    He was booked into the Santa Rosa County Jail and charged with second-degree felony homicide, which is manslaughter by culpable negligence. Brown, 41, was given a bond of $50,000 during his first court appearance Monday afternoon.

    Brown’s arrest offered Hillary’s family a form of relief.

    Ben Brown arrested: Gulf Breeze plastic surgeon Ben Brown arrested, charged with death of wife, Hillary Brown

    "My family lives in a sea of tears for eternity due to the actions of one careless individual," said her father, Marty Ellington. "His ego and arrogance overshadowed the need for help, prolonging oxygen deprivation to her brain and ultimately causing her death. Ben Brown took the mother from my grandchildren, my only daughter and our brightest star. Hillary gave the ultimate sacrifice so Ben Brown cannot hurt anyone else. Maybe in prison, he will get the attention he deserves."

    Here is what we know about Ben Brown and the death of Hillary .

    How did Hillary Brown die?

    In a social media post from Nov. 24, Brown wrote about his wife's coma.

    In the post, Brown wrote, “We need prayers for a miracle. Hillary had a cardiac arrest on Tuesday afternoon. We called 911 and started CPR. Her heart came back but her brain is not doing well. She has been in a coma since she went unconscious on Tuesday. Hillary Ellington Brown you are my soulmate, my world, my everything. Please come back. Please!”

    According to a Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office incident report, Brown called 911 from his Restore Plastic Surgery office in the Tiger Point area of Gulf Breeze around 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 21.

    The call notes stated there was a female in cardiac arrest: "DR POSS OVER MEDICATED PATIENT."

    Ben Brown investigation: Ben Brown, Gulf Breeze plastic surgeon investigated after wife's death, could lose license
    In this photograph taken on August 22, 2017, a patient undergoes a plastic surgery procedure at Huamei Medical Cosmetology Hospital in Shanghai. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images. AFP Contributor, AFP via Getty Images

    "I interviewed the medical technician (name redacted) who advised the patient is Hillary E. Rogers Brown, who is currently Dr. Brown's spouse," a deputy wrote. "Hillary Brown was in the process of several surgical procedures when she experienced several seizures and then went into cardiac arrest."

    Ultimately, the state found that Hillary showed signs of lidocaine toxicity while she was undergoing a miniature muscle plication/abdominal scar revision, bilateral arm liposuction, lip injection and ear adjustment procedures.

    Florida Department of Health investigation unearths new details about Hillary Brown’s death

    The FDOH’s 30-page emergency order provided insight into more details surrounding Hillary Brown’s death . According to the order, Brown waited at least 10 to 20 minutes before beginning CPR, did not have life-saving equipment readily available in his office when her heart stopped, and that he did not follow proper medical protocol when administering sedatives, like lidocaine, which ultimately lead to her death.

    The state said Hillary, who is not a licensed medical professional, was allowed to prepare and take her own anesthesia solution prior to the procedures Brown performed on her. The state said Hillary showed signs of lidocaine toxicity during the surgery before she became unresponsive, but Brown continued to administer lidocaine and operate on her.

    The health department also described numerous violations of basic standards of medical care that constitute “medical malpractice,” including performing unauthorized procedures on patients like Brazilian butt lifts, not following sterility protocols and performing poor work on patients that led to infections and improper wound care.

    Is plastic surgery dangerous? Florida doctor arrested for wife's death: Is plastic or cosmetic surgery dangerous?

    Investigation into Ben Brown initiated following Hillary’s death

    On March 1, the Pensacola News Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported that the Florida Department of Health was investigating Brown.

    Florida Rep. Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, chair of the House of Representatives healthcare regulation subcommittee, said that she had partnered with the DOH to see if there was anything she could do to help protect future patients, but was told that “all the laws to keep him from doing this are in place.”

    Salzman said Brown’s case ultimately revealed legal loop holes that allowed Brown to have patients sign arbitration agreements. By signing these agreements, patients were effectively foregoing their rights to a jury trial should they want to pursue a medical malpractice case.

    Local personal injury attorneys also said they had turned away some of Brown’s former patients who wanted to pursue a medical malpractice case against him because Brown had minimal insurance coverage limits.

    Hillary Brown’s death sparked call for new laws protecting patients

    Salzman and Florida Rep. Alex Andrade, who represents the district where Brown's practice was located, have since called for changes in state legislation.

    Andrade has stated that he is committed to drafting legislation that would prevent physicians from performing surgical procedures on their own family members.

    “The only law or rule that apparently isn't there right now that I can confirm is the prohibition on operating on family members for an elective procedure like this,” said Andrade. “This is something as a layperson I thought would have already been on the books. I am absolutely filing that bill for them, so I'm happy to confirm that.”

    Calls for new laws: Dr. Ben Brown allegations lead legislators to call for new laws protecting patients

    Salzman said she reached out to Florida’s surgeon general regarding Brown and is also working with the Florida Medical Association, personal injury attorneys and others to close legal loopholes that have allowed a variety of “bad actors” in the medical field to avoid accountability and compensating patients for work that caused injury.

    “The two biggest problems that we have with these patients seeking accountability for the way that they were treated in (Brown’s) office is the arbitration agreement and the self-insurance,” said Salzman. “Those two things have just kneecapped this process for our community to seek better outcomes for themselves and obviously for other people.”

    Salzman said the Florida Medical Association (FMA) and private business owners have in the past pushed back against making the changes she wants, but she is moving forward regardless and says the FMA has agreed to work with her on any proposed legislation.

    Florida partially restricted Ben Brown’s medical license in May

    On May 2, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) issued an emergency order immediately restricting Brown’s ability to practice medicine, saying he can only practice in a state-licensed hospital under the supervision of a licensed physician.

    The state issued the order based on several factors including its investigation into Hillary Brown’s death. The state said Hillary Brown, who is not a licensed medical professional, was allowed to prepare and take her own anesthesia solution prior to the procedures Brown performed on her and that she showed signs of lidocaine toxicity during the surgery prior to becoming unresponsive.

    The state said Brown waited at least 10 to 20 minutes, looking for life-saving and other medical equipment, before staff called 911.

    In the order, the department of health also said two of Brown’s patients suffered from shoddy work, infections and improper wound care, as well as procedures the patient hadn't authorized such as a Brazilian butt lift.

    Florida’s surgeon general asked to impose penalties on Ben Brown a month before his arrest

    Florida’s surgeon general asked the Florida Board of Medicine to impose penalties on Brown including permanent revocation or suspension of his license, restriction of his practice, administrative fine, reprimand, probation or corrective action.

    The health department said disciplinary action is necessary because Brown violated several state statutes including behavior that falls below the minimum standard of medical care, failing to keep accurate and complete medical records, performing unauthorized procedures, and allowing an unlicensed person to practice medicine.

    In the administrative complaint, the state goes on to say Brown also broke the law by performing unauthorized fat injections, or Brazilian Butt Lifts, on two patients and inaccurately documented in records that one patient wanted the fat injections. They say he also failed to document and maintain records about patient wound complications and follow-up appointments and that he allowed his unlicensed wife to perform laser treatments.

    Brown has declined to comment publicly on the allegations against him, but in early May his family issued a statement in response to the emergency order restricting his medical license.

    "This is an ongoing investigation, and therefore we cannot comment on specific details. However, this public order was issued without Dr. Brown having any opportunity to dispute the allegations against him through any hearing process. These accusations are inaccurate and misleading, and Dr. Brown looks forward to the opportunity to defend himself and present the actual facts through a hearing process in the future. Dr. Brown continues to live an endless nightmare without his wife Hillary by his side, and these inaccurate allegations only further deepen his immense pain.”

    This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Florida plastic surgeon charged in wife's death after procedure at his office

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