Denver, CO – A Colorado plastic surgeon, Dr Geoffrey Kim, 52, and a nurse, Rex Meeker, are facing criminal charges following the the death of a patient who underwent breast augmentation surgery. The case dates back to December 2019, when 18-year-old Emmalyn Nguyen was scheduled for breast surgery meant to shore up her self-image after graduating from high school.
Things started to go wrong immediately after nurse Rex Meeker administered the anesthetic. The girl was left unattended in the operating room for 15 minutes and when the staff came in she had already turned blue. Dr Kim admitted he didn’t call 911 for five hours after Emmalyn Nguyen went into cardiac arrest. By the time paramedics finally arrived the girl had sustained massive brain injury. She never regained consciousness, but survived for another 14 months hooked on a respirator and a feeding tube.
Doctor Kim was also accused of lying to the girl’s mother who was in the waiting room the whole time. Instead of calling 911 right away, the surgeon told Emmalyn’s mother the girl was taking more time to wake up, adding there was nothing to worry about as she was young and healthy.
The surgeon was charged with negligent homicide, reckless manslaughter and misdemeanor obstruction of service, while the nurse was charged with manslaughter. Dr Kim had no previous malpractice charges, but nurse Meeker had been sued in 2009, after a woman sustained brain damage and died while undergoing breast implant surgery. The case was settled in 2012.
What’s the difference between a criminal case and a wrongful death lawsuit?
The criminal case against Dr Kim and nurse Meeker will certainly bring a sense of closure to the girl’s family. During all this time, the Nguyen family was appalled by the fact that the people who caused such terrible suffering to their daughter and ultimately killed her were allowed to practice as if nothing happened.
A criminal trial has nothing to do with damages. If you are injured or you lose someone due to medical malpractice or an accident caused by someone’s negligence, you have the right to file a personal injury or a wrongful death lawsuit. The girl’s family had already sued the doctor and the nurse back in December 2019. The case was settled after each of them agreed to pay the victim’s family $1 million.
Under Colorado law, there is a $1 million “umbrella” cap on the total damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. This includes both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are meant to cover medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages are also known as pain and suffering damages and are capped at $300,000.
Following Emmalyn’s death, the family’s lawyer announced that the initial lawsuit will be turned into a wrongful death lawsuit. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family can recover funeral and burial expenses, as well as compensation for their loss.
If someone you loved was recently killed in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you should contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer at the Bryan&Terrill law firm to see if you have a case.
Bryan & Terrill
333 W. Hampden Ave., #420B
Englewood, CO 80110
Image source: Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office / Twitter
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