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Two Hispanic journalists promote a change in the Florida law to protect victims of cosmetic surgeries

Fellowship Story Showcase

Two Hispanic journalists promote a change in the Florida law to protect victims of cosmetic surgeries

This story was produced as part of a larger project led by Maria Alesia Sosa and Érika Carrillo, participants in the 2018 National Fellowship.

Other stories in this series include:

A dangerous cosmetic surgery killed 14 women in five years

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

During the recent state legislative session Florida lawmakers approved new rules for plastic surgery centers, which have been loosely regulated despite the deaths of patients.

The Florida Senate unanimously approved bill SB732, promoted by Senator Anitere Flores (R), which seeks to curb medical malpractice among cosmetic surgeons.

If signed by the Governor Ron DeSantis, the law would allow the state for the first time to punish dangerous plastic surgery facilities and shut down the worst offenders. The bill aims to prevent doctors from opening new facilities if they’ve closed due to bad practice. Doctors who manage these centers should also register with Florida Department of Health (FDOH), which was not mandatory before.

The legislation also obliges cosmetic centers to have insurance for cases that end badly.

The bill was introduced by Senator Flores, after two Univision 23 journalists transmitted the findings of their investigation: that Florida’s laws were permissive and was not protecting patients.

"In this session, I have had the honor of defending a bill for surgical centers that will significantly correct the gap in the legislation and save lives," Senator Flores said in a statement after the bill was approved.

The law was approved unanimously with 37 votes on the floor of the Senate in Tallahassee.

As proof of the problem, legislators listened to the testimonies of the victims of the story of Carrillo and Sosa, which was originally published in February of this year.

"Although this bill won’t bring back people who have died or suffered injuries that alter their lives at the hands of these plastic surgery butchers, SB 732 will be indispensable to regulate a business that has become volume, instead of safety "said Flores, who thanked his colleagues for voting in favor of it.

Right after the approval, senator Flores referred to the journalistic work that drove this law, and personally congratulated Érika Carrillo who was in the Senate at that time.

The report 'Florida: Paradise of beauty and death' was a project sponsored by the Center for Health Journalism of the University of Southern California (USC). The proposal of Carrillo and Sosa won a fellowship to carry out their research for six months.

"I am happy and proud to do research that improves and protects our counties. Today, the Senate approved rules and compulsory insurance for surgery clinics for the first time," said Érika Carrillo, who also thanked the senators for "believing in these projects."

On the other hand, journalist Maria Alesia Sosa said: "Thanks to the victims who told us their story, and to the relatives who decided to transform the pain of their loss into action. Their voices were heard in Tallahassee and today we can say that their deaths were not in vain. This law can save many lives."

A supplementary bill (HB 933) submitted by Rep. Anthony Rodriguez was also approved by the House.

Another emergency rule

Carrillo and Sosa’s story was focused on the dangers of the so popular Brazilian Butt Lift, a procedure often performed in Florida.

But now, a new rule from the state’s Board of medicine may make that practice safer.

On June 7th, that Board approved an emergency rule that sets new restrictions for surgeons who conduct this procedure. The rule, which already took effect, prohibits surgeons from injecting fat into or below a patient’s gluteal muscles due to the risk of piercing the gluteal vein, which can cause fat clots to travel to the heart and lungs, leading those organs to fail.

This cause of death was reported in many of the victims that are mentioned in Univision’s investigation.

[This article was originally published by Univision.]