You are fighting consciousness and slowly open your eyes to the overpowering white lights of an operating room. You are immediately struck with unbearable pain as you realize something is not right. Thoughts of panic and terror come rushing in as you look down at your surgical site and see unfamiliar kitchen-like instruments. You are yelled at in a language you do not understand as you are drugged back into unconsciousness. You are in a real life horror movie as a victim of malpractice.
Malpractice is a tort of negligence performed by a healthcare professional. Working in healthcare means following specific duties to practice as professionals. (Fundamentals of the Legal Environment of Business) According to Malpractice in Surgery, “A physician may not perform diagnostic or therapeutic actions that do not comply with established medical standards. He is to consistently act as may be expected from a diligent, conscientious, and experienced physician and he may not violate accepted regulations of medical science (Imhof, Michael, and Constantijn Blondel, page 3).
On April 13th, 1999 a professional bodybuilder by the name of Alexander Baez trusted Reinaldo Silvestre to surgically implant artificial pectorals into his upper torso. Baez was a famous bodybuilder and the previous winner of Mr. Mexico. He was receiving pec implants to help him with his fading bodybuilding career in hopes to accomplish his dream of becoming Mr. Universe. Silvestre reassured Baez on the simplicity of the procedure, and made him feel comfortable. He was going to be put under anesthesia and wake up in an hour and a half with the pecs of his dreams.
Baez arrived at Miami Beach’s Ocean Health Center and was prepared for surgery. (Reavil)
Four hours later, he came out of a narcotic haze, experiencing unbearable pain in his torso. He tried to recall where he was, and remembered waking up earlier and seeing a tool resembling a spatula sticking out of his chest. He gathered his thoughts and realized something was not right. He looked down and saw pecs that seemed to be a little too large. Scared and in pain he called out Spanish, his native language, “Donde estoy ?” or “Where am I?” Alone with a jagged incision in his chest, he tried to convince himself if was swelling. (Reavil)
Weeks later, he realized the swelling was not going down. He was in agonizing pain, and decided to take a look in the mirror. He struck one of his famous competition poses and realized he had breasts. Baez stated, “I couldn’t see my torso, my back, because I had a big moon in my chest, it was the first time I knew for sure this was a female breast.” Furiously, he attempted to reach the office of Silvestre to share his outrage. He then learned his surgeon had fled the country. So he did the next best thing, and informed law enforcement. (Reavil)
Baez’s case went public and victims of Silvestre came forward. The law agency Aronfield filed a class-action civil lawsuit on behalf of Baez and the other botched victims. The search was on for the con-man and fugitive Reinaldo Silvestre. Years later he was found teaching medical classes in Brazil. Upon a thorough investigation disturbing facts had been discovered. Silvestre was not a physician, let alone a surgeon. He practiced as an “army doctor” in Cuba before coming to Miami. He came to Miami in the late 90s and opened Miami Beach’s Ocean Health Center in a prestigious location. He would have his successful real estate girlfriend gather clients by luring them in with ridiculously low priced plastic surgery. He attempted to get his license in Florida to practice as a doctor, but failed the exam four times. Law enforcement realized he was using anesthetic meant for animals, and kitchen tools as surgical instruments. Silvestre was sentenced to prison and was sued for 5 million dollars. (Reavil)
As a nurse, malpractice is something I have encountered a number of times. Sometimes the cases are severe, and other times it is an unsatisfied patient seeking riches. In this case, I sympathize with Baez and believe Silvestre was definitely in the wrong. Also being born and raised in Miami, I know how important looks and style are to people, so he definitely had to have had a steady stream of clientele. The physical scares in plastic surgery mishaps may go away, but the emotional and psychological scarring may never. Imagine using your body as your livelihood and it getting ruined. Poor Baez was probably made fun of severely especially because of how his culture sees things. Being raised with strong hispanic ways, I know it is important for men to be “manly” so if he had breasts he most likely got shamed. I am glad that medical laws have stepped up greatly since the 90s and pretending to be a doctor is a million times harder to do.