When the wife of country music legend Hank Williams, Jr. went to see a plastic surgeon for an elective procedure, I can’t imagine that she thought she had made a life-or-death decision.
Former model Mary Jane Thomas lived in Nashville with her famous husband. She traveled to Bafitis Plastic Surgery in Jupiter, Florida to have a plastic surgeon remove old breast implants and then do a breast lift, liposuction, and autologous fat reinjection.
A Texas connection
The plastic surgeon, Harold Bafitis, DO, trained in Texas. He earned his medical degree (DO) from the University of North Texas, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and a master’s degree in public health (MPH) from the University of Texas School of Public Health, in Houston.
A tragic death at 58 years old
After the plastic surgery procedures in Florida, Mary Jane was released to a recovery facility. Reports say that she was initially sitting up in bed and speaking normally. The next day, she suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse and was found unresponsive.
They rushed her to a hospital emergency room, where she tragically died at the young age of 58.
A surgical injury caused her death
Because of the unexpected death, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy.
The autopsy report was recently released and concluded that Mary Jane Thomas died of pneumothorax (collapsed lung) from a perforated parietal pleura that happened during part of the plastic surgery procedure. The pleura is a connective tissue membrane that surrounds the lungs and attaches to the inside of the chest wall.
Based on the medical examiner’s autopsy report, Mary Jane’s pleura was accidentally punctured during the plastic surgery. This led to a leak of air in the pleural space between the lung and chest wall. As that air accumulated, it caused her lung to collapse.
Cases of severe pneumothorax (complete lung collapse) causing chest pain or breathing problems can be a medical emergency. As air accumulates in the wrong place, it can cause tension and interfere with the normal function of the lungs and heart. Left untreated, it can lead to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest (heart attack), and death.
The normal treatment is for a physician or surgeon to decompress the affected area by removing the excess air. This can be done quickly with a needle decompression, which involves inserting a needle between the ribs to release a rush of air. It usually takes a little longer to do a chest tube placement, which many consider to be the definitive treatment for decompression of pneumothorax.
Medical malpractice considerations
When investigating a medical malpractice claim involving injuries that occurred during plastic surgery, we look at:
• If there was appropriate medical clearance before surgery.
• If there was adequate informed consent.
• Whether the plastic surgeon scheduled too many procedures at once. The longer the patient is immobile and under anesthesia, the higher the risk of complications.
• If the plastic/cosmetic surgeon followed the standard of care in the technical aspects of the surgery.
• If the surgeon recognized and treated any complications.
• Whether the discharge instructions from the surgeon were adequate.
• Whether there was appropriate follow-up care.
We’ve handled numerous plastic surgery medical malpractice claims, including a Dallas case where a middle-aged patient died a few days after surgery from a complication. If you’ve been seriously injured because of substandard plastic or cosmetic surgical care in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.