With deaths mounting in Florida's cosmetic surgery centers, a top state lawmaker has proposed legislation that would allow the state to punish clinics for the first time and ban troubled doctors from working in the facilities.
State regulators could impose fines and shut down clinics that have operated for decades with virtually no regulatory oversight while patients were left with critical injuries.
The bill filed on Tuesday comes just days after an investigation by USA TODAY and the Naples Daily News showed eight women died after procedures in the same Miami area plastic surgery business where doctors with little specialized training were performing up to eight surgeries a day in what patient advocates called a factory assembly line.
Despite the deaths and injuries -- including two women hospitalized after their intestines were perforated -- the state allowed the facilities to keep operating.
“It’s a national problem because you’ve got people from all over the country (coming to Florida) under the assumption that they will be safe,” said Republican Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami, the chamber's deputy majority leader, who is sponsoring the bill.
Flores, whose district includes the plastic surgery business investigated by USA TODAY, said the fatal surgeries represent “heartbreaking cases of people with young families and the last thing they expected was to come here and die.”
The investigation found the business now known as Jolie Plastic Surgery is among more than a dozen high-volume clinics in Florida owned by investors and driven by discount prices and social media advertising that draw thousands of women each year from across the country.
Until now, the state health department says it has never been able to close the facilities when patients die or are injured, but the proposal would give the state the power to now revoke the clinic’s registration.