Liposuction Tragedy: Mother's Death Highlights Dangers of Plastic Surgery

A recent lipo-sculpting-related death has drawn attention to fatalities.

ByABC News
June 21, 2011, 3:13 AM

June 21, 2011— -- The promise of instant beauty, for relatively little money and pain, has been the appeal of plastic surgery for decades. Largely ignored, however, are the dangers of going under the knife for cosmetic procedures that are widely considered routine.

As the trend to get nipped and tucked grows more popular, a recent lipo-sculpting-related death has drawn attention to the number of plastic surgery-related fatalities and emergencies.

Maria Shortall, a housekeeper from Weston, Fla., died after undergoing a standard lipo-sculpting procedure in mid-June at the Alyne Medical Rejuvenation Institute in Florida. Shortall worked seven days a week to pay for the $3,600 procedure, which was intended to take a few hours.

"Approximately 22 incisions [were made], which is a significant amount, in terms of a relatively, an otherwise relatively minor cosmetic procedure," the family attorney, Michael Freedland, said. "What we do know is that a 38-year-old, otherwise healthy woman, shouldn't go in for a minor cosmetic procedure, and die."

At some point during Shortall's procedure, things started to go wrong. The facility decided that she needed to be transported to Cleveland Clinic, where she was eventually pronounced dead.

Now there's a pending homicide investigation surrounding the incident, with an attorney for the Alyne Institute only saying that the center is now investigating an incident.

"For me, right now, I lost everything," Vanya Briones, Shortall's daughter, said. "Because she was everything for me. I just feel different."

A 2008 study in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that only one in 50,000 people died as a result of plastic surgery procedures between 2001 and 2006.

But some recent high-profile deaths and frightening emergencies as a result of plastic surgery complications have put the voluntary procedures back in the spotlight.

Rapper Kanye West's mother, Donde, died in 2007 as a result of complications from an abdominoplasty and breast augmentation.

Comedian Kathy Griffin was rushed to the emergency room in Los Angeles during a liposuction procedure in 1999. Another patient, Marilyn Leisz, was unable to shut her eyes after blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery. A jury awarded her $115,000.

The most common form of cosmetic surgery performed in 2010 was breast augmentation, with 296,000 procedures performed that year in the United States alone.

Nose reshaping procedures were the second most common, with 252,000 performed, followed by eyelid surgery (209,000), liposuction (203,000) and tummy tucks (116,000), according to the 2010 annual procedural statistics report released in February by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Liposuction and tummy tuck procedures, in particular, can be quite dangerous. When those specific surgeries are factored into the equation, the patient's chances of dying soar by a factor of 16.

It's too late for Shortall, whose son, Enzo Briones, says that if he could go back, he would stop his mother from having the procedure.

"I would say, 'Don't do it, and you just look fine, how God give you,'" Briones said. "I would hold her. And not let her go."